If you want children, quit smoking for your best chance at conceiving.
If you’re planning a family, you definitely want to be in the best of health and do what you can to boost your fertility. However, many people don’t realize that smoking can decrease fertility and the success of conception.
Today, doctors acknowledge that fertility is a couple’s affair; to conceive successfully, both the egg and the sperm must be healthy. Unfortunately, the chemicals in nicotine and smoke can cause serious damage to both. The result? Infertility rates in both male and female smokers are about twice that found in nonsmokers. And your risk for fertility problems increases with the number of cigarettes smoked daily. Even being subjected to secondhand smoke can reduce your chances of getting pregnant.
Whether you’re thinking about having a baby soon or in ten years, quitting smoking will give you the best chance to conceive and boost your fertility. Here’s how smoking negatively affects family planning:
- Every stage, a problem. Smoking affects every phase of the reproductive process. The chemicals in smoke cause the uterus to become less receptive to the egg and also adversely affect egg and sperm maturation, hormone production, and embryo transport. Smoking can also damage the DNA in both eggs and sperm, the building block of healthy babies.
- Fewer eggs, earlier menopause. Women only have a certain amount of eggs per lifetime. Chemicals in smoke speed up the loss rate of eggs; once they die off, they can’t be replaced. This means that menopause can occur 1 to 4 years earlier in women who smoke (compared with non-smokers).
- Lowered estrogen, more abnormalities. Nicotine and other harmful chemicals in cigarettes interfere with the body’s ability to create estrogen, a hormone that regulates ovulation. This results in making women’s eggs more vulnerable to genetic abnormalities.
- Less powerful sperm. In men, smoking decreases the quantity of sperm as well as their ability to swim—a major factor in conception. Smoking also increases the number of abnormally shaped sperm and might even decrease the sperm’s ability to fertilize eggs.
- Less effective IVF. Female smokers undergoing IVF need more medications to stimulate their ovaries and still have fewer eggs at retrieval time. Their chance for a successful procedure is 30 percent less than than nonsmokers.
The good news is that the sooner you quit, the better are your chances to conceive. Quitting immediately can improve your natural fertility, and some of the adverse effects of smoking can even be reversed within a year of quitting. While you can’t reverse the loss of eggs, the rate of complications around conceiving will decrease the longer you refrain from smoking. If you quit before conception or within the first three months of pregnancy, you’ll reduce the risk of premature birth to that on par with non-smokers. Better yet, both you and your partner will enjoy clearer lungs and stronger hearts—the better to run after toddlers.
So use this Monday to quit now, and utilize all the support we offer on this site. It’s the very best thing you can do for your own health and the health of your baby.