Most people know that smoking increases the risk of cancer, heart disease, and other health risks. But fewer people wonder, does smoking cause infertility? The truth is, smoking cigarettes can significantly affect fertility and pregnancy. Male and female smokers experience infertility at around twice the rate of nonsmokers. If you smoke and are trying to get pregnant, the best thing you can do for your health and your future baby’s health is to stop smoking. Here’s a look into how smoking can lead to infertility, and resources to help you quit.
How Smoking Can Cause Female Infertility
For people with ovaries, smoking cigarettes makes it harder to get and stay pregnant. Smoking can cause eggs to die off or not develop, lowering your total reserve of eggs available for fertilization. In fact, women who smoke experience menopause an average of 1-4 years before non-smokers.
In addition, smoking can cause infertility by:
- Contributing to blockages in the fallopian tube, making it harder for sperm to reach the egg for fertilization
- Affecting the uterine lining, making it harder for an embryo to implant and develop into a pregnancy
- Damaging eggs, which can raise the risk of miscarriage
- Raising the risk of an ectopic pregnancy
Smoking affects both natural conception and assisted reproduction techniques such as in vitro fertilization (IVF). If you smoke while pursuing IVF, you may need more hormonal medications, develop fewer eggs for retrieval, and have lower success rates for each cycle.
Effects of Smoking on Male Fertility
When it comes to fertility, sperm is evaluated in four categories: volume, concentration, motility (movement), and morphology (shape). Smoking can cause infertility by negatively affecting three out of these four categories. Men who smoke typically have lower sperm counts, decreased motility, and more abnormally shaped sperm. In addition, smoking may also lower the sperm’s ability to fertilize eggs.
On top of that, smoking also damages the DNA carried in sperm cells, which is passed on to the developing embryo, and may contribute to an increased risk of miscarriage or birth defects.
Effect of Smoking on Pregnancy
Many studies have shown that smoking during pregnancy leads to higher risks of miscarriage, premature birth, birth defects, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Fewer people realize that being exposed to second-hand smoke and using smokeless tobacco products carry roughly the same risks as actively smoking. Fortunately, quitting smoking (together with your partner, if they also smoke) can lower these risks.
If Smoking Can Cause Infertility, Does Quitting Smoking Help Fertility?
Studies show quitting smoking helps improve your chances of getting and staying pregnant, while also protecting your, your partner’s, and your future child’s health. Sperm quality increases as soon as you quit smoking; however, it takes about three months for your sperm supply to fully cycle, so ideally you would quit at least three months before trying to conceive.
For people with ovaries, some of the health benefits of stopping smoking are immediate. It can take up to a year after quitting for some other of the effects associated with smoking to reverse. The longer it’s been since you last smoked, the lower the risks get.
Quitting smoking can be very hard. Studies have shown people have better success at quitting if they do so with the guidance of their doctor and a support system. Your doctor can give you resources for quitting, including support groups, check-in appointments, and strategies like nicotine patches, gum, or prescription medications.
While the best time to quit smoking is before trying to conceive, it’s never too late to quit. Quitting at any point, even during pregnancy, can prevent additional health risks to you and your child. If you are pregnant and having trouble quitting, talk with your doctor and fertility specialist about the possibility of using medicated strategies, as some may be possible to use during pregnancy.
Your Team Is Here For You
At PNWF, we help you chart out the best path for your fertility goals. Smoking is one of the most common reversible causes of infertility. If you smoke and are trying to conceive, our fertility assessment can evaluate your current reproductive health and what your options are for the future. We are here to provide support and information to help inform your decisions. For questions or to schedule an initial appointment, reach out to us today.