Smoking and Fertility

By CNY Fertility Updated on

There are an infinite number of health benefits that can be achieved by quitting smoking.  Smoking causes several different diseases and increases your risk of developing many health problems.  Still, over 20% of reproductive-aged men and women smoke cigarettes.  

This article will describe the many ways smoking harms fertility and how quitting can help you improve your chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy baby!

Fast Facts

  • Chemicals in cigarettes can damage the genetic material of sperm and eggs. 
  • Male smokers can experience lower sperm counts, sperm motility, and an increased number of abnormally shaped sperm.
  • Female smokers can experience irreversible egg loss and early menopause.  
  • Smoking affects your ability to have children, the amount of time it takes to conceive and can cause infertility in men and women. 
  • Male fertility improves immediately after quitting smoking.
  • Quitting smoking can improve female fertility and the chances of conception.  

Does Smoking Affect Fertility?

Smoking is bad for nearly all measures of male and female fertility.  Cigarettes contain chemicals and toxins like nicotine, cyanide, and carbon monoxide.  These chemicals directly impact male and female gametes (sperm and eggs) and cause severe damage to reproductive processes.  

Simply put, smoking can affect your ability to have children and can cause infertility in men and women.  

Smoking and Fertility In Males

Smoking causes decreased sperm quality by negatively impacting several (if not all) characteristics of sperm.  Male smokers can experience lower sperm counts, sperm motility, and an increased number of abnormally shaped sperm .  

In one study, researchers measured and compared the effects of cigarette smoking on different main sperm variables for smokers and non-smokers. 

Decrease in Sperm Quality of Smokers Compared to Non-Smokers

Sperm Density Sperm Count Sperm Motility
-15.3% -17.5% -16.6%

They found that cigarette smoking was associated with a significant decrease in sperm density (-15.3%), total sperm count(-17.5%), and the total number of motile sperm(-16.6%) .   

As previously mentioned, smoking causes damage to the male and female sex gametes.  Specifically, smoking causes damage to the genetic material of sperm and eggs.  Genetic damage to sperm and eggs increases the chance of miscarriage and offspring birth defects.  Genetic damage to sperm may also decrease sperm’s ability to fertilize eggs. 

Men who smoke are also about twice as likely to experience erectile dysnuction .  Erectile dysfunction can make getting pregnant a greater challenge and cause stress, low confidence, and relationship strain.

When a man chooses to smoke, he also puts his partner’s fertility at risk.  Women who are exposed to secondhand smoke can experience reduced fertility and many other health risks .  

How Long After Quitting Smoking Does Male Fertility Improve?

Male fertility starts to improve immediately after quitting smoking.  It doesn’t matter how long you’ve smoked; once you put the cigarettes down, your sperm quality will start to improve.  Sperm take approximately 90 days to develop.  By quitting smoking 3 months before trying to conceive, you will significantly improve the health of your sperm and your chances at successful conception.  

In one study, researchers noted that the detrimental effects of smoking on semen quality were not seen in men who had stopped smoking .  Stopping smoking results in healthier sperm with a better chance of fertilizing an egg and creating a healthy baby.

If you’re a smoker and trying to conceive, try stopping as soon as you can and consider making other changes in your diet and lifestyle to increase male fertility.

Smoking and Female Infertility

Smoking is even more determinantal to female fertility because it causes irreversible damage to women’s egg supply.  The chemicals in cigarettes can speed up the loss rate of a woman’s eggs and cause her ovaries to age prematurely.  Unlike men, who are always producing new sperm, women are born with all of the eggs they will ever have.  Once eggs die, they are not regenerated.  Egg loss from smoking can cause women to go into menopause 1-4 years earlier than non-smokers .  

Women who smoke also experience lower rates of conception compared to non-smokers.  Infertility rates are twice as high for smokers compared to non-smokers .  Women who smoke are also 54% more likely to experience conception delays for over 12 months compared to non-smokers .  

Research has shown that the percentage of tobacco use is higher in infertile populations compared to fertile populations.

Smoking in Fertile and Infertile Populations

 

In this study, 23.7% of infertile women admitted to using tobacco, and 16.1% of fertile women used tobacco .  

Fertility treatments can increase smokers’ chances of getting pregnant, but smoking does make the process more difficult.  Female smokers need more stimulation medications during in-vitro fertilization (IVF). 

Even with the increased dosage, smokers still have fewer eggs at retrieval time, and their pregnancy rates are 30% lower than IVF patients who do not smoke

Women who smoke or are exposed to secondhand smoke also experience the following:

  • Altered hormone production
  • Altered uterine environment (where the baby develops)
  • Increased risk of miscarriage
  • Increased risk of preterm labor or ectopic pregnancy
  • Increased risk of a chromosomally unhealthy pregnancy
  • Increased risk of having a baby with developmental issues

How Long After You Quit Smoking Does Female Fertility Improve?

Ovarian reserve does not recover after quitting cigarettes, but stopping smoking can result in improved female fertility in other ways.  Compared to men, women take longer to see positive effects from quitting smoking on their fertility.  Research indicates that women will start to see a positive effect after one year of quitting. 

For women not already in menopause or with tubal factor infertility, stopping smoking can return the potential for fertility.  After one year, ex-smokers have similar chances of getting pregnant to women who have never smoked .  

Does it matter How many Cigarettes you Smoke?

Yes and no.  No matter how many cigarettes you smoke per day, your fertility will be negatively affected.  Still some research indicates that the effects get worse the more you smoke .  For women, the number of cigarettes and the length of time they smoke significantly impacts fertility.  As mentioned above, smoking does irreversible damage to a woman’s ovarian reserve.  The longer a woman smokes, the more damage occurs to her ovaries and eggs and the more likely she is to enter early menopause.  

Although men produce new sperm every 90 days, the longer they smoke, the longer it will take for their system to clear of chemicals and toxins.  These chemicals and toxins affect spermatogenesis and keep sperm from developing properly.  

How to Quit?

Quitting smoking is no easy task, and it often requires the support and help of others.  As you can see from this article, there are tons of reasons to quit smoking, especially if you are trying to get pregnant.  Quitting smoking can help to improve your health and ensure the future health of your baby.  

Unfortunately, even pregnant women who understand the risks of smoking have only seen modest effects from concerted efforts to quit smoking.  Quitting smoking takes time! In one study, individualized counseling on the risks of smoking was reasonably effective at influencing women to quit.  After twelve months of intervention,  the proportion of women who quit smoking increased from 4% at baseline to 24%.  Individualized counseling entails providing education and encouragement during clinical visits based on the patient’s individual readiness to quit .  Individualized counseling is a simple and affordable option to consider when trying to quit smoking.  

For additional support, consult with your doctor or visit The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website. 

Nutrients to Consider as a Smoker

The best thing you can do to improve your fertility is to STOP SMOKING!  While you are quitting, you can take fertility supplements and vitamins to improve your fertility and combat the adverse effects of cigarette toxins. 

Smokin cigarettes is associated with low zinc levels.  Research indicates that smokers have less zinc in their ejaculate than non-smokers.  Zinc is a critical nutrient for sperm development, and taking zinc along with other supplements can increase your sperm count, motility, morphology, and overall male fertility.  In one study, researchers found that men who smoke but still have normal levels of zinc are less likely to experience fertility issues .  Zinc may help to reduce the damage caused by cigarette toxins on sperm.  

Smoking can cause deficiencies in several other nutrients than zinc, like vitamins A, E, C and cause significant oxidative stress from harmful free radicals.

For this reason, smokers are highly recommended to take fertility supplements and can help to reduce the damage caused by cigarette toxins and naturally improve their fertility.  

Smoking Marijuana when Trying to Conceive

Research regarding marijuana use and its effects on fertility is not nearly as common or established.  Exactly how marijuana affects fertility is unknown, but some studies suggest marijuana may negatively impact both male and female fertility. 

As a caution, it is best to avoid smoking marijuana when trying to get pregnant.  

The Bottom Line

Smoking is bad for nearly every aspect of male and female fertility and reproduction.  Smoking affects male fertility by causing reduced sperm quality and erectile dysfunction.  Women experience irreversible damage to their ovarian reserve and several other negative effects as a result of smoking.  Overall, smoking decreases the chances of successful conception and increases the amount of time it takes to get pregnant. 

Quitting smoking is extremely difficult, but the positive impact on your fertility and overall health is more than worth the effort.  Smokers should seek help quitting cigarettes if necessary and should consider fertility supplements to overcome nutritional deficiencies that result from smoking.  

 

 

 

 

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