With all the advertising and warnings from professionals and the general population, we all know that smoking if bad for our health for so many different reasons. However, have we ever stopped to think that it is not just the increased risk in cancer and heart disease that we have to worry about? What about the decrease in fertility for both men and women? Statistics show that there has been a significant decline in male and female fertility over recent decades. Many of these reasons are due to lifestyle choices; a major contributor being smoking. So what if you don’t smoke but your partner does, that means you’re safe right? Unfortunately Not! Smoking has been shown to make it harder to conceive, irrespective of which partner smokes. A recent study in Britain showed that smoking reduced the chances of women and men being able to conceive by 10-40% per cycle. Passive (or secondary) smoking is no better than active smoking.
Both female and male smokers have lower fertility levels than those who do not smoke. However, smoking effects men and women in different ways in regards to their fertility. Let’s find out how:
How Smoking Effects Fertility In Women
- It has been shown that nicotine affects the production of hormones that are necessary for pregnancy. Therefore, nicotine patches are not recommended, except in the case if heavy smokers who are unable to give up on will power alone
- It hinders the transportation of the egg through the Fallopian tubes to the womb
- Adults who were born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy fall pregnant less easily (this is for both men and women)
- Research has shown that women who are exposed to second-hand smoke as children or young adults were more likely to have issues falling pregnant
How Smoking Effects Fertility In Men
- Sperm count is 15% lower than that of non-smokers
- Smoking harms the motility of sperm – that is the way they move and swim towards the egg
- It affects the morphology – the certain shape a sperm must be in order to penetrate the egg
- Smoking develops an imbalance in levels of a protein called protamine which is crucial to sperm fertility
- Sperm has a more difficult time binding to an egg than in non-smokers
- Genetic defects in sperm caused by smoking can be passed onto children
When To Stop Smoking
The honest answer would be immediately, however for many smokers this is easier said than done. Research has shown that the below figure is the minimum time range to cease smoking if you are wanting to conceive and have a healthy child:
- For both men and women it is recommended to stop smoking at least 3 months before attempting to conceive. For men, smoking related damage to the sperm accumulates over the 90 days it takes for sperm to form fully.
- Couples considering using IVF should also quit smoking at least 3 months prior to increase the chances of success
How To Stop Smoking
Luckily, in this day and age there are many options to help you quit smoking. Natural therapies ranging from Acupuncture to Naturopathy have also proven useful in quitting smoking. You can get advice and support from a number of different sources including your midwife, GP or natural healthcare professional. Evidence shows that counselling can double the quit rate for pregnant women.
How can Live Well help you?
The first month or so after quitting smoking can be the most difficult when giving up smoking. Acupuncture treatments during this time will focus on calming the mind and alleviating anxiety and to help address physical symptoms of withdrawal.
A lovely relaxation massage can help calm your mind and body. It is important to treat yourself during this time, as with giving up any addiction it can be difficult. Massage can assist you to keep calm and centred.
Sometimes it can be useful to talk to a professional Counsellor to help you overcome your fears of quitting, and to give you the confidence and motivation to do so.
These are just some things to consider to increase your chances of falling pregnant if you or your partner are a smoker. There is a lot of support and information out there that can help you on your way.