If you’re struggling to get pregnant and are still a smoker, what better day to ‘commit to quit’ than on Monday 31 May – the WHO’s ‘World No Tobacco Day’.
In addition to harming our general health, there is strong evidence of the links between smoking and infertility – for both men and women. And if other medical conditions are stopping you from being able to get pregnant, either naturally or with IVF, smoking seems to make this worse.
If you smoke, it is likely to take you longer to get pregnant than a non-smoker – almost twice as long. Every cigarette you smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, which can decrease fertility in both men and women.
Women who smoke are twice as likely to be infertile as non-smokers. Nicotine and the chemicals in tobacco thin the lining of the uterus, which reduces the chance of getting pregnant, and increases the risk of miscarriage. Smoking can also cause genetic abnormalities in eggs – another cause of not getting pregnant or early miscarriage.
Smoking can also ‘age’ a woman’s eggs, increasing the chance of early menopause.
If a woman does get pregnant naturally, smoking increases the risk of an ectopic pregnancy, where the embryo develops in one of her fallopian tubes. An ectopic pregnancy is a serious condition which can permanently harm a woman’s fertility and can even be life threatening.
Smoking is also harmful to any unborn baby – restricting their supply of oxygen and making their heart beat harder every time the mother smokes.
In men, nicotine is highly toxic to sperm. It can also cause impotence. It is one of the lifestyle choices that can reduce the number of sperm, and sperm’s ability to swim – along with use of recreational drugs, high alcohol consumption and a fast food diet.
But there is good news. Stopping smoking can reverse some of the damage or risks to a man’s or woman’s fertility in as little as four months. So, quitting should be a part of both of your plans for pregnancy, including improving your diet, increasing the amount of water you drink, and getting to an ideal weight. The ideal is that both partners should quit together – to support each other and to avoid the risks of passive smoking, when inhaling another person’s smoke.
“Smoking and other lifestyle choices are within our control, whereas many other causes of infertility may be genetic or medical,” said Dr James Armatage, Interim Medical Director at RHG-IVF Life.
“Fertility treatment may help overcome these medical and genetic conditions, but quitting smoking at least four months before trying to get pregnant is good advice for anyone hoping to become a parent.”
For information on how to quit smoking with nicotine replacement therapy, stop smoking aids, support groups, helplines, and medications, visit the NHS website.