If you’re planning to conceive, one of the first things we always point out is to stop smoking (if you smoke, that is). All types of tobacco products should be avoided when trying to conceive, because they impact fertility in a negative way, for both men and women. It’s also really important to remember that smoking before, during, or after pregnancy can be harmful to your baby.
Research has proven a number of links between smoking and negative fertility outcomes. It’s well established that smoking can have a negative impact on hormone production. Smoking can damage the reproductive system and it even affects the DNA in sperm.
Smoking and Fetal Development
Pregnancy complications caused by smoking include miscarriages and preterm labor and delivery. It is estimated that about 400,000 babies in America are exposed to firsthand or second-hand smoke while in the womb. This puts babies at risk of a number of potential problems:
- Improper development of the lungs
- Low birth weight
- Birth defects that include cleft lip or palate
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
It’s also believed that cigarette smoking can increase the risk of an ectopic pregnancy. This happens when a fertilized egg fails to reach the womb. This is a serious health condition that frequently leads to the death of the baby, and can even cause the death of the mother.
Nicotine and Eggs or Sperm
The chemicals in cigarette smoke can cause a woman to lose eggs at a faster rate. Once eggs are lost, they cannot be replaced. Women who smoke can hit menopause as much as 4 years earlier than non-smokers.
Men who smoke suffer from reduced sperm quality. This includes reduced sperm counts and motility. Smoking can also lead to abnormally shaped sperm, and can reduce the sperm’s ability to fertilize an egg.
How Smoking Affects Fertility
Women who smoke cannot conceive as efficiently as non-smokers. In fact, both men and women who smoke suffer infertility rates that are about twice as high as non-smokers. The amount that you smoke each day can also impact the ability to conceive.
Smoking can have such a devastating effect that even IVF or other treatments from a fertility clinic may not be able to succeed. Women who smoke require more medications during IVF. Even with increased medication, they have fewer eggs available to retrieve, and have lower conception rates than non-smokers.
Miscarriages and birth defects are more common among smokers, because it can harm the genetic material in both eggs and sperm. Women who smoke are more likely to experience a pregnancy with chromosomal effects, such as Down Syndrome.
It’s also very important to note that secondhand smoke can cause women to experience all of the negative effects listed above. Both you and your partner should quit smoking for the best chances to conceive and have a healthy pregnancy.
Stop Smoking to Improve Fertility
Your decreasing egg supply cannot be reversed, but if you stop smoking, you can increase your odds of conceiving. The more time that passes after you quit smoking, the greater the reduction in pregnancy complications will be.
Giving up smoking is a challenging thing to do, because of the addictive nature of nicotine. However, it is the best thing you can do when hoping to conceive. Nicotine patches and gum or prescription medications can be used to help you kick the habit. Although it’s not recommended that these be used during pregnancy, you and your healthcare provider might make that decision if it helps you to stay off cigarettes.
Maintaining a healthy diet and healthy weight, taking prenatal vitamins, and getting the right type of exercise can all help to ensure that you’ll be able to conceive and have a healthy baby. But the very best thing you can do for yourself and your pregnancy chances, if you smoke, is to quit smoking. We can point you to additional resources to help you quit smoking at Viera Fertility Center.