Most people know that smoking tobacco while pregnant can have a negative impact on the baby’s development. But did you know that smoking and using other forms of tobacco can lower your ability to become pregnant in the first place? Understanding how tobacco can impact fertility in both men and women needs to be a critical part of any family planning process. Here are some facts that you can incorporate into yours.
Tobacco Effects on Women
About 1 in 4 women over the age of 18 smoke. Unfortunately, studies find that cigarette smoking can be linked to problems in the fallopian tubes and an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy, where the egg never reaches the uterus and instead implants inside the fallopian tube. Smoking may also increase a woman’s chances of infertility by as much as 60%.
Additionally, chemicals in cigarette smoke can cause an imbalance in antioxidant levels within the ovaries. This imbalance can then harm folliculogenesis, the process by which egg cells mature and are released at ovulation. If eggs don’t mature properly, the chances of successful fertilization and implantation will obviously decrease.
As if that weren’t enough, smoking reduces the ovarian reserve and can lead to early menopause. Studies show that for each “pack-year” – that is, the equivalent of 1 pack every day for a year – that a woman smoked resulted in 2.5 fewer mature eggs and 2 fewer embryos during fertility testing.
Tobacco Effects on Men
Male fertility is also affected by tobacco use. Smoking damages blood vessels and affects blood flow. In some studies, this has been linked to erectile dysfunction and decreased sexual performance. Smoking can also cause chromosome damage and DNA fragmentation in sperm. This kind of damage reduces the rate of successful fertilization in assisted reproduction.
You don’t even have to smoke to suffer from tobacco use. A study of men who use chewing tobacco showed that heavy users had a greater rate of abnormally shaped sperm. These individuals are also likely to present with a low sperm count.
Health Effects of Tobacco Overall
As you can see, tobacco can have an impact on our health in many ways. These listed fertility issues are each in addition to the well known, typical dangers of smoking – lung disease, cancer, damage to the teeth and skin, etc. They’re also in addition to the possible damage of tobacco on a developing child. Because of this, we recommend that couples aim to quit smoking and be tobacco free at least one month before actively trying to conceive. Doing so will not only benefit your own health, but will help your future family grow up as healthy as possible!