How Does Smoking Affect Fertility
Most people understand that smoking increases the risk for heart, vascular, and lung disease. But many don’t realize that smoking can damage your fertility--for both men and women.
Smoking can affect you even if you are not a smoker. For reference, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 38 million American adults are regular smokers. In particular, cigarette smoking is especially high among men between the ages of 25 and 64.
But what does that mean for your fertility health, and if you quit smoking can you still have a chance to start a family?
Does Smoking Reduce Fertility
Smoking has a direct link to infertility in both men and women. Chemicals (such as nicotine, cyanide, and carbon monoxide) in cigarettes have harmful effects for both the eggs and sperm which affects the future of a child’s health.
- DNA (genetic material) in eggs and sperm
- Men and women hormone production
- Fertilized egg’s mobility to reach the uterus
- The environment where the baby grows inside the uterus
Many think that passive smoke (inhaling someone else’s smoke) doesn’t affect the chance of having a baby, or the baby’s health. In reality, women who are exposed to other people’s smoke take longer to get pregnant. Passive smoking is almost as damaging to your unborn baby's health as smoking!
Quitting Smoking And Fertility
Can you quit smoking and still be fertile? The short answer is yes, although there are some complications with this.
Unfortunately, the decrease of the egg supply cannot be reversed and the rate of pregnancy complications due to smoking decreases the longer a person has not smoked. It advised that quitting at least three months before trying for a baby is important to make sure the sperm is healthy when the baby is conceived.
Medical evidence shows that the more you smoke, the worse it is for a man’s sperm count, sperm concentrations, motility (how they swim) and shape (main parameters of semen test). If you smoke 20 cigarettes a day that is way worse for fertility than an occasional cigarette--although any amount of smoking has a negative effect.
For women, the positive effects of quitting smoking can be detected in the eggs in three months. Since it takes 90 days to produce the egg that will be released during your cycle, the egg that you ovulate in three months is starting to be made now.
The sperm count and sperm mobility can dramatically decrease the longer a man smokes, decreasing the chance to conceive a child or donate sperm.
- Men who smoke can have problems starting and maintaining erections.
- Smoking damages the DNA (genetic material) in sperm, which can be transferred to the baby.
- Sperm takes about three months to mature and men produce sperm regularly, quitting at least three months before trying for a baby is important to make sure the sperm is healthy for when the baby is conceived.
- Heavy smoking (more than 20 cigarettes per day) by fathers at the time of conception increases the child’s risk of childhood leukemia.
In addition, smoking is a risk factor for erectile dysfunction (ED), which can make getting pregnant a challenge. According to the Journal of Andrology, men are about twice as likely to have ED if they smoke. Men who smoke 20 cigarettes a day are more likely to have ED than men who do not.
Smoking While Pregnant
It’s important to note that no amount of cigarette smoking has been determined to be safe for women who are pregnant.
- Miscarriages are more likely to occur for women who smoke in pregnancy.
- Babies risk increases for low birth weight, being born prematurely and having birth defects.
- If women are exposed to cigarette smoke during pregnancy, including inhaling other people’s smoke (passive smoking) it can affect the development of a baby girl’s ovaries.
- Every cigarette smoked increases the risk of miscarriage by one percent.
- Smoking increases a woman’s risk of having an ectopic pregnancy, where the baby starts to develop outside the uterus, most commonly in the fallopian tube, where it will not survive and is additionally dangerous for the mother.
In addition, smokeless tobacco also leads to increased miscarriage rates. Women who smoke are more likely to conceive a chromosomal unhealthy pregnancy (such as a pregnancy affected by Down syndrome) than nonsmoking mothers.
Even if the mother does not personally smoke, exposure to secondhand smoke in the household can harm female fertility. In fact, once a woman gets pregnant, secondhand smoke can increase the risk of miscarriage, low birth weight and learning disabilities. There’s abundant evidence that shows that smoke exposure to a newborn baby can lead to respiratory infections, asthma and sudden infant death syndrome.
If you’re struggling to get conceive, educate yourself or your partner about how fertility is impacted by smoking. If both parents are smokers, it is easier to tackle quitting together. In addition, smoking is a very serious risk factor for heart disease and cancer.
If you or you know of someone who wants to quit smoking, visit here for more help.
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