Smoking cessation improves male and female fertility. Why?

Can smoking negatively affect the ability to have a child?

Most people are aware that cigarette smoking increases the risk of heart, vascular and lung disease. However, many are unaware that smoking can cause fertility problems in both men and women. Without forgetting that both erectile dysfunction and pregnancy complications have higher incidences in smokers.

How does smoking affect oocytes and sperm?

Each cigarette contains about 4,000 chemicals, 400 of which are toxic and 40 are classified as carcinogenic . They also contain heavy metals (such as cadmium and lead), which have been shown to be major agents of sperm damage.

Substances such as hydrogen cyanide, nicotine and carbon monoxide accelerate the loss of the number of oocytes in women . This results in menopause occurring on average 1 to 4 years earlier in women who smoke (compared to non-smokers).

Male smokers, on the other hand, may experience a decrease in sperm quality with
lower values ​​for sperm count, sperm motility, and higher values ​​for sperm morphology abnormalities.    Smoking may also decrease the sperm’s ability to fertilize an egg.

Studies show that smoking can cause DNA damage in sperm Furthermore, men with sperm with high DNA damage may have reduced fertility and higher miscarriage rates.

Additionally, smoking is a risk factor for erectile dysfunction , which can make pregnancy a challenge. According to a study published in the  Journal of Andrology , men who smoke are twice as likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction.

How can smoking affect my ability to conceive?

Infertility rates in both male and female smokers are approximately double the infertility rates found in non-smokers.

The risk of fertility problems also increases with the number of cigarettes smoked each day.

Even fertility treatments such as IVF may not be able to completely overcome the effects of smoking on fertility .

Smoker women need more drugs to stimulate the ovaries to produce follicles,
have fewer eggs at the time of collection and have 30% lower pregnancy rates than non-smoker women who undergo IVF.

Since smoking damages the genetic material in oocytes and sperm, the incidences of miscarriages and birth defects are higher among patients who smoke.

Women who smoke are more likely to have a child with a chromosomal disorder (such as Down syndrome) than non-smoking mothers.

Ectopic pregnancies and preterm deliveries also occur more often
among female smokers.

Can parental smoking affect children’s health?

Sons whose mothers smoked at least half a pack of cigarettes a day have lower sperm counts. Smoking while pregnant can also lead to growth restrictions in the uterus. Babies born with a lower-than-expected birth weight are at increased risk for conditions that develop later in life, such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease. Children whose parents smoke are at increased risk of sudden death ( SIDS ) and developing asthma.

Does the number of cigarettes smoked count in terms of fertility?

Studies show that the more you smoke, the worse your sperm count, motility , and shape are. 20 cigarettes a day have been shown to be worse for fertility than the occasional cigarette.

When it comes to quitting smoking, the all-or-nothing approach isn’t always easy to put into practice. If giving up altogether isn’t realistic, culling the number can make a significant difference in your fertility.

It is important to remember, however, that no amount of cigarettes is considered safe in pregnancy. Therefore, you should never smoke during pregnancy. 

Does secondhand smoke affect fertility?

Women exposed to secondhand smoke can suffer all the risks we mentioned above.

Even if a person does not smoke in the home, the smoke can still be present in the smoker’s hair and clothing and harm other family members.

Once a woman becomes pregnant, secondhand smoke can increase the risk of miscarriage, low birth weight and learning disabilities in the baby. There is abundant evidence showing that newborn exposure to secondhand smoke can lead to respiratory infections, asthma, and increase the risk of sudden death syndrome.

Can e-cigarettes be a valid substitute?

Alternatives to cigarette smoke still contain toxic chemicals that can damage sperm. Nicotine itself has been shown to be harmful.

Will I increase my chances of getting pregnant if I quit smoking? How long?

Yes. Quitting smoking can improve fertility even if the eggs that have been lost to smoking can never be recovered.

Many health benefits are visible within weeks or months of quitting. But some effects are not seen until a year after quitting. So the sooner you stop, the better.

For men, a complete cycle of spermatogenesis takes three months. Every lifestyle change you make, every medication you take will generally take three months to impact sperm health. After quitting, it’s a good idea to wait three months before performing a spermiogram.

The chances of pregnancy complications caused by smoking decrease the more time passes since the last cigarette smoked.
Quitting smoking can be very, very difficult but many studies show that the probability of success increases if the person gets help, from a health professional by a self-help group.

There are several lifestyle and environmental factors that you can control in addition to smoking, including diet , exercise, and alcohol use. Quitting smoking is one of the best natural ways to boost fertility . Women who quit smoking double their chances of getting pregnant every month.

Kathryn Barlow is an OB/GYN doctor, which is the medical specialty that deals with the care of women's reproductive health, including pregnancy and childbirth.

Obstetricians provide care to women during pregnancy, labor, and delivery, while gynecologists focus on the health of the female reproductive system, including the ovaries, uterus, vagina, and breasts. OB/GYN doctors are trained to provide medical and surgical care for a wide range of conditions related to women's reproductive health.

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