It is well known that, smoking when pregnant is bad for your baby. But did you also know that there is a link between smoking and fertility which might be stopping you from conceiving?
Statistics for Smoking and Fertility
- Women who smoke may be up to 30% less fertile than women who don’t
- On average, female smokers are three times more likely to take longer than a year to get pregnant
- Women who smoke are twice as likely to be infertile as those who don’t
How Does Smoking Affect My Fertility?
Cigarettes contain 43 known compounds that can cause cancer and 400 other potentially toxic chemicals. These toxins inhaled through cigarette smoking damage cells throughout your body, including in your reproductive tract. This affects female fertility in a variety of ways:
- Smoking damages the fallopian tubes and can cause blockages that can prevent the sperm from meeting the egg. This also increases your risk of having an ectopic pregnancy (where the pregnancy implants in the wrong place)
- It damages the ovaries and the DNA of the eggs within them. It also causes increased ageing of the ovary which can bring on the menopause up to 4 years early
- It damages the cervix and increases the risk of developing cervical cancer (if you are a smoker, make sure you are up to date with your Cervical Screening)
- It increases the risk of miscarriage. This may be due to a combination of damaged eggs, poor development of the growing embryo, and damage to the lining of the uterus so that it cannot implant properly
Another consideration to take into account is the detrimental effect of smoking upon the developing baby. This may well have had an effect in the very early stages, before you’re even aware that you are pregnant. It is therefore strongly advised that you quit smoking before trying for a baby, rather than waiting until the pregnancy test turns positive. If you do become pregnant while still smoking, please check out the NHS website: Stop Smoking in Pregnancy.
Does How Much I Smoke Matter?
Yes, it does. Research studies into smoking and fertility have shown that the more you smoke, the less likely you are to get pregnant. This is not surprising as the more you smoke, the more toxins you will be taking into your body and the more damage they will cause.
The greatest damage is among women who smoke 10 or more cigarettes a day. This does not mean however that smoking fewer than 10 cigarettes per day will not be having a negative effect upon your fertility.
The advice will always be to stop smoking entirely, but if the thought of this is too overwhelming, you would still be benefiting your health by cutting down on your cigarette intake.
Does My Partner Smoking Affect My Fertility?
Yes, it does. Passive smoking (where you breathe in the cigarette smoke from someone close by) is only slightly less harmful than smoking itself.
Your partner’s smoking and fertility are also linked. Smoking will damage his sperm’s DNA and make him take twice as long to get you pregnant than a non-smoker. For more information on how smoking and other lifestyle choices can affect your partner’s fertility, check out the section Male Lifestyle Factors Affecting Fertility.
Smoking and Fertility Treatments
If you need fertility treatment in the future, be aware that many clinics may refuse you. This is because:
- If you did not smoke, you might not require fertility treatment in the first place
- Fertility treatments have been shown to not be as effective on smokers
- Because you are less likely to conceive, you will negatively affect the clinic’s Success Rates, which could damage their reputation
For more information on the criteria Fertility Clinics use, check out the section How to Choose a Fertility Clinic.
What Can I Do About It?
The good news is that women’s fertility is thought to return to normal after a year of having quit smoking, though any damage done to a woman’s eggs while smoking may be permanent.
Quitting smoking is not easy, and there is a lot of support out there to help you and to improve your chances of stopping for good. If both you and your partner smoke, quitting together can help with motivation and increase your chances of stopping. For more advice or help, see your doctor, or if you live in the UK visit NHS SmokeFree Service.
The long term effects of e-cigarettes on female fertility aren’t fully known at the moment, though existing research indicates they are less harmful than normal cigarettes. I personally recommend you do not smoke e-cigarettes while pregnant as you will still be exposing your growing baby to nicotine if nothing else. But as a strategy to quit smoking completely before becoming pregnant, they are better than the real thing because at least they don’t contain the tobacco, tar, arsenic and 400 other potentially toxic chemicals.
Vitamin C is one of the most effective nutrients you can take to reduce the bad effects that smoking has on your fertility, though it won’t counteract them completely. If you can’t quit smoking, you should consider taking regular vitamin C supplements, as well as eating foods rich in it to at least reduce some of the damage being done to you. Though don’t overdose on it, so keep your intake from supplements to under 1,000 mg per day.