How does smoking affect fertility?

Most people are aware of the dangers that smoking presents to health, including cancers and lung and heart problems. Smoking while pregnant has been shown to cause birth defects. Some studies even suggest a link between smoking and a higher risk of miscarriage. However, few people are aware that smoking can also negatively affect fertility. Smoking can affect both female and male fertility.

There are several ways that smoking can affect female fertility. Smoking may affect the way that hormone estrogen is released. Some studies suggest that smoking reduces the amount of estrogen that a woman’s body produces. Smoking may cause a decrease of blood flow to the genital organs, which can cause dryness of the vagina and other sexual issues. Smoking may contribute to the destruction of eggs while they are in the ovaries, before they reach maturity. This results in a lower egg count. Smoking can negatively impact the fallopian tubes, and can even lead to disease of the fallopian tubes. Smoking can cause a woman’s eggs to be more prone to genetic problems, as well. Finally, some research has suggested that smoking may even negatively affect the ability of an embryo to implant in the uterus.

Some studies suggest that women who have never smoked have had as much as twice the degree of success when trying to conceive than those who have smoked. The rate of successful conception drops further the longer the woman has smoked.

Fewer studies have been done on the effects of male smoking and fertility, but some of the research does suggest that there may be a connection between smoking and a low sperm count. Other studies suggest that smoking may affect the sperm’s motility, and may even lead to genetically abnormal sperm.

If you are trying to conceive, many health care providers will recommend that you cease smoking at least two months prior to conception. Because of the health risks involved to you and your baby, you should absolutely cease smoking once you discover that you are pregnant.

Last modified: February 10, 2013

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