The Damaging Effects of Smoking on Fertility

Smoking and Fertility

The current pandemic has forced us to think differently about our everyday behaviors and especially our health. 

Research and studies on the new novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 have looked into how smokers can be more vulnerable to experiencing severe symptoms due to a weaker immune system and reduced lung capacity and damage from smoking. 

But did you know smoking can also cause infertility problems in both men and women?

We often hear about the adverse effects of smoking and how it can lead to several health problems. But only 22% of couples understand smoking to be a risk factor of infertility. 

Smoking can cause fertility problems for 13% of couples. If one or both of you are smokers, this can lead to several issues when trying to conceive and even during pregnancy.

Fertility Problems Caused by Smoking

Smoking has been linked to many serious health conditions, including different types of cancer, heart disease, stroke, and other severe health conditions.

Every cigarette contains thousands of chemicals and toxins that can cause significant damage to your lungs, heart, and reproductive system.

Results from a recent study found that five to six cigarettes a day can drastically impact your chances of conceiving and increase your risk of developing other fertility-related problems. Smoking can also increase the time it takes for you to get pregnant.

Blocked Fallopian Tubes: Fallopian tubes connect the ovaries to the uterus and is the passage where egg and sperm meet for fertilization. However, a blockage can reduce the chances of fertilization and increase your chances of ectopic pregnancy by blocking the path to the uterus for implantation. 

Damage Egg Quality: The toxins from cigarette smoke can compromise the quality of eggs and reduce the number of times. The change is egg DNA can increase the chances of miscarriage. Women are born with all their eggs that they will carry throughout their lifetime, so any premature aging to the eggs can cause problems for future pregnancies.

Increased Risk of Pregnancy Complications: Smoking can lead to a higher chance of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. This can be caused due to damage to the eggs, changes in the uterine lining, or developmental problems in the fetus. 

Cervical Cancer: Smoking has been linked to various types of cancer, including cervical cancer in women. Cigarettes contain chemicals that can cause damage and abnormal changes to the DNA of the cells in the cervix. Smoking also compromises the immune system making it harder to fight infections like human papillomavirus HPV, which can lead to cervical cancer.

Changes to the Uterine Lining: Smoking can directly affect the uterus by reducing the thickness of the lining, leading to miscarriage.

Developmental Problems in the Fetus: Premature birth, low birth weight, and miscarriage are some of the pregnancy complications associated with smoking. However, smoking during pregnancy can also lead to many congenital disabilities in a developing fetus, including cardiovascular problems, cleft lip, gastrointestinal defects, facial or skull malformations, or limb defects. 

Changes in Hormone Function: Some studies suggest the chemicals from tobacco can cause damage to the endocrine system and alter hormone production. This can lead to early menopause, infertility, and menstrual disorder. 

Failure to Conceive: Smoking can affect your ability to conceive in different ways. It can damage your reproductive system causing problems even before you start trying. Secondhand smoke is harmful, too, and has proven to lower pregnancy success rates. 

The success of IVF Treatment: If you are a smoker or your partner smokes, it can significantly impact the success of IVF treatment. IVF treatment is an assisted reproductive therapy which helps with fertilization, implantation, and embryo development.

How to Quit Smoking

If you are trying to start a family and you or your partner smoke, it is time to quit. 

It is advised to stop smoking at least three months before trying. Although not all damage is reversible, lifestyle changes can increase your chances of pregnancy.

It can be challenging when you decide to quit. Smoking contains nicotine, which is highly addictive and can make it harder to stop.

Here are a few tips you or your partner can follow to help you stop smoking:

  1. Set a Date: Set a date to help you work towards it. Give yourself two weeks from the moment you decide to quit. Keep in mind it will take a couple of days to adjust to this new change.
  2. Let Loved Ones Know: It is essential to have a support system in place so family, friends, and co-workers can help you achieve your goal. 
  3. Get Educated: Do your research on what to expect when you quit. There can be physical and psychological challenges in the first three months, which can be hard to overcome.
  4. Remove Tobacco Products: Do not keep tobacco products in your house, car, or workplace to avoid temptation. It is also advised to wash clothes and furniture that smell like smoke.
  5. Consult Your Doctor: You may experience withdrawal symptoms that include constipation, fatigue, dizziness, and headaches. You can discuss some medication options with your doctor to help you manage these symptoms. 

The Benefits of Quitting

The quicker you decide to quit, the better it will be to plan to start a family. Twenty minutes after your last cigarette, you begin experiencing the physical benefits of quitting. Your body continues to heal even years after you stop smoking.

In terms of fertility, once you decide to stub out your last cigarette, you are giving your reproductive system a chance to heal. 

The Bottom Line

Smoking is a very harmful habit which can cause significant damage to our bodies. If you are trying to conceive, quitting at least three months before can help prevent pregnancy complications and increase your chances of conception. 

The harmful effects of smoking can also cause problems for your baby, leading to several congenital disabilities and developmental issues in the fetus.

Secondhand smoke is just as harmful and can also reduce your chance of conceiving.

When you start planning for a baby, both you and your partner need to stop smoking to ensure a healthy pregnancy and baby. The chemicals in tobacco can directly affect the success of IVF treatment and your ability to conceive naturally. This is because smoking causes significant damage to your reproductive system.

It can be challenging, but there are different things you can do to help you quit. It is essential to do your research, create a support system, and consult your doctor for more information.

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Dr. Shweta Goswami
Dr. Shweta Goswami
Dr. Shweta Goswami, MBBS from MAMC, MD in Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Fellowship in IVF & Reproductive Medicine, is a renowned IVF specialist in Delhi with 20+ years of experience. She specializes in various fields of reproductive medicine, including IVF, ICSI, donor egg surrogacy, and laparoscopy. Dr. Shweta approaches infertility treatment through technology innovation and a professional clinical approach. Book an Appointment View Details

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