Women who drink more than moderate amounts of alcohol should be refused IVF treatment, an influential group of experts has said.
In advice to clinicians on lifestyle factors and fertility treatment, the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology said: "Fertility doctors should refuse treatment to women used to more than moderate drinking and who are not willing or able to minimise their alcohol consumption."
The statement said this was due to the risks to the child which include foetal alcohol syndrome which can cause growth retardation, low IQ, behavioural problems and facial deformities.
Moderate consumption in Britain is considered to be within government recommended limits of three to four units a day for men and two to three units a day for women with two alcohol free days a week.
A standard size glass of wine is around two units and a large glass of wine is around three units.
Women who are trying to conceive or are pregnant are recommended not to drink at all or if they want to drink, to stick to just one to two drinks once or twice a week, under guidance from the Department of Health.
British experts said it should be left to the doctor treating the couple to assess if alcohol consumption was high enough to warrant putting off treatment until drinking is brought under control.
Prof Allan Pacey, of the University of Sheffield and spokesman for the British Fertility Society, said clinics are already required to take into account the 'welfare of the child' and further blanket conditions on alcohol consumption are not necessary.
Guidance from the National Institute for health and Clinical Excellence says cutting down on alcohol consumption can help reduce the risk of harm to the developing baby and that excessive drinking may affect the chances of conceiving either naturally or through IVF.
Many primary care trusts impose their own conditions on funding for IVF treatment including that couples do not smoke or where the woman is obese. However it is not thought any refer specifically to alcohol consumption.
Susan Fleisher, executive director of the National Organisation on Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, said: "We agree in principle with ESHRE on this guidance but women should be supported to stop drinking so they can undergo any treatment they require without endangering the health of their future children."
The British Fertility Society has cautioned against treating obese women due to the risks of anaesthetic in overweight people.
Clare Lewis-Jones, Chief Executive of Infertility Network UK, said: “We know that alcohol consumption can have an impact on success rates of fertility treatment, as well as having an adverse effect on the health of both the mother and baby.
"We would advise anyone trying to conceive, whether naturally or through fertility treatment, to cut down on alcohol consumption and suggest that both partners drink no more than the moderate amounts recommended by experts.
"We would also suggest that in addition to cutting down alcohol consumption, that anyone trying for a family follows a healthy diet and stops smoking to maximise their chances of success and give their baby the best possible start to life."
Article from www.telegraph.co.uk