Whether or not you personally use tobacco products, you likely know the many associated risks. The CDC states, “Smoking leads to disease and disability and harms nearly every organ of the body.” Along the same lines, the Mayo Clinic says chewing tobacco is “more harmful and addictive than you might think.”
There’s no question that tobacco in all forms is harmful. It affects one particular aspect of your health that’s often overlooked, however: fertility. In particular, smoking is directly linked to increased infertility issues in both women and men. With just 15-25% odds of a couple conceiving naturally in any given month — even under optimal conditions — it’s important to practice as many healthy habits as possible.
At our Melbourne fertility clinic, we empathize with the fact that quitting your tobacco habit may be far easier said than done. We’re not here to judge you in any way, shape, or form; we’re here to help you. Our goal is to help you understand exactly how tobacco impacts your ability to get pregnant and the fertility problems it can cause.
How Tobacco Use Affects Fertility
We know that smoking and other tobacco use negatively affects almost every organ. So it should come as no surprise that it directly impacts fertility in numerous ways.
Egg Quantity and Quality
As a woman ages, her number of eggs begins to deplete naturally. The eggs also decline in quality and are more likely to become damaged. The chemicals in tobacco, especially nicotine, carbon monoxide, and cyanide, speed up the rate at which those eggs are damaged or lost. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), women who smoke experience menopause one to four years earlier than those who don’t.
Sperm Quantity and Quality
In order for conception to occur naturally, a man’s sperm must “swim” through the female’s reproductive system and implant and fertilize one of her eggs. Smoking can decrease the number of sperm, cause the sperm to be abnormally-shaped, and hinder its motility, or ability to move. These are all classic symptoms of male infertility.
Increased Infertility Rates
ASRM data shows that smokers, both female and male, have about twice the infertility rates as non-smokers. The risk of infertility correlates directly to the number of cigarettes smoked each day. Even occasional smokers are substantially more likely to experience fertility problems. However, the risk increases exponentially the more frequently someone smokes.
The effects of using tobacco are seen even in women undergoing IVF fertility treatments. Couples in which either partner smokes are as much as 30% less likely to successfully become pregnant through IVF. Women who smoke also generally have fewer eggs retrieved and require more medications for stimulating the ovaries.
Beyond having a negative impact on fertility, tobacco use is also linked to an increase in pregnancy complications. Miscarriage, ectopic pregnancies, and pre-term labor rates are higher in both smokers and smokeless tobacco users, as are birth defect occurrences. The likelihood of having a baby with chromosomal defects such as Down syndrome is also increased in smokers.
It’s important to note that even secondhand smoke can have a significant impact on fertility. That means you’re not necessarily in the clear if you do not smoke but your partner does.
Will Stopping the Use of Tobacco Products Improve Fertility?
The answer to this question is a resounding yes. The only way to improve your odds of conceiving if you use tobacco products is to quit. The more time that passes without using tobacco, the less likely you are to experience fertility and pregnancy complications due to its use. However, it’s crucial to understand that there is no way to regenerate or replace eggs once they’ve depleted.
If you’re concerned that tobacco use is negatively affecting your fertility, contact Viera Fertility Clinic in Melbourne. Quitting tobacco use can be extremely difficult, but you don’t have to do it alone. We will work with you to come up with the best course of action — together.