Smoking and fertility

By Bupa

If you are hoping to have a baby and either you or your partner smoke, you need to quit for many reasons but also to help increase your chances of conceiving.

Research shows infertility rates in both male and female smokers are about twice the rate of infertility found in non-smokers, with the risk of fertility problems increasing with the number of cigarettes smoked each day.

Even if you do manage to conceive while you and/or your partner smoke, you have a higher risk of things going wrong during the pregnancy, and your smoking can also affect your unborn child.

How smoking can affect female fertility

Women who smoke have a harder time conceiving than women who don’t smoke. Even being exposed to other people’s smoke (passive smoking) is only slightly less harmful to fertility than actually smoking.

Smoking may:

  • Reduce the number of eggs in women
  • Lead to earlier menopause compared with non-smokers
  • Cause changes in the structure and functioning of the fallopian tubes
  • Affect the ability of the embryo to implant itself in the uterus

Women who smoke also have a higher risk of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy and other pregnancy-related complications.

Fertility treatments such as IVF can be less successful if you smoke. Studies have shown that smokers are about 30 per cent less likely to fall pregnant after IVF treatment than non-smokers.

How smoking can affect male fertility

In men, smoking can result in:

  • Decreased sperm quality
  • Lower counts of sperm
  • Reduced sperm motility
  • Increased numbers of abnormally shaped sperm

It may also decrease the sperm’s ability to fertilize eggs, and even change the DNA of the sperm itself.

Smoking can also make it difficult to conceive, as it affects the blood vessels of the penis, causing erectile problems.

How smoking can affect your child

Smoking cigarettes impacts your child in many ways:

Low-weight and premature babies
Babies born to mothers who smoke are more likely to be born prematurely. They usually weigh less than babies born to non-smokers.

Early death
Women who smoke during pregnancy are 33 per cent more likely to bear a stillborn child. Around 9 per cent of stillbirths in Australia are caused by smoking.

Babies born to women who smoke are 28 per cent more likely to die in their first four weeks of life than those born to non-smokers. Furthermore, in Australia, children of mothers who smoke are up to three times more likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) than those born to women who don’t smoke. Around 34 per cent of all SIDS cases in Australia are caused by smoking.

Childhood illnesses
Smoking while pregnant increases the risk of your child developing childhood respiratory illnesses, including asthma.

Research suggests fathers who are heavy smokers (20 or more cigarettes per day) at the time of conception, increase their child’s risk of developing childhood leukaemia, and shortens the reproductive lifespan of their daughters.

Other research has found that women who smoke during the early stages of pregnancy reduce the number of germ cells in the embryo. Germ cells later develop into eggs or sperm, thus potentially reducing the fertility of the unborn child, male or female.

Seek help to quit

There is so much at stake if you continue to smoke when trying to conceive a baby, or while you are pregnant. For your health, and that of your partner and your unborn child, take steps to quit smoking. Not only will you increase your chances of getting pregnant, but you are more likely to have a healthy child.

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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