Alcohol
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Aspiring fathers, and not only mothers, should quit drinking as many as six months before becoming parents as a new study has linked a baby's congenital heart defects with their prospective parents' alcohol consumption before conception.

According to the study, fathers who drink during three months before conception are 44 percent more likely to have babies born with congenital heart disease than males who do not drink alcohol.

Numerous studies in the past have linked consumption of alcohol during pregnancy with developmental problems and congenital defects which affect nearly one percent newborns each year in the US.

About 1.35 million babies are affected with congenital heart defect across the globe every year, with CHD being the most common type of birth defect, according to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC).

Exposure to alcohol changes the DNA in developing sperm and changes its activity, it has been found in previous researches.

The findings of the study said the risk of development of congenital heart defect in a baby was 52 percent high if the prospective dad was a binge drinker – about five or more drinks per session.

There is a 16 percent higher risk of defects in babies if mothers drink or binge-drink before conception, compared to not drinking, suggested the study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

"Binge drinking may not only increase the chance of their [parents'] baby being born with a heart defect but also damages their own health," said lead author Jiabi Qin from Xiangya School of Public Health, Central South University in China.

Men should not consume alcohol for at least six months before fertilization, while women should stop drinking alcohol one year before and avoid it while pregnant, to be on a safer side, said the researcher.

Centre for Disease Control (CDC) said birth defects occurred in one out of every 33 babies and were the leading cause of infant death, suggesting women completely avoided alcoholic drinks when trying to conceive as at least 15 percent of CHDs are associated with genetic conditions.

Earlier a study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology claimed that smoking by fathers-to-be before or during conception increased the risk of congenital heart defects in their babies, and smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke were detrimental in mothers-to-be.