Most couples know that smoking while pregnant can lead to pregnancy complications, birth defects, and increased risk of miscarriage. For these reasons, most women who smoke plan to quit when they become pregnant. However, smoking while trying to conceive can also have disastrous effects on both male and female fertility and increase a couple’s time to conception.
Smoking and female fertility
A group of studies
has found that female smokers are 60% more likely than nonsmokers to be infertile
. They are also 42% more likely to have conception take more than a year. This is because smoking accelerates ovarian death, which means depleting your supply of eggs and leaving your existing eggs more fragile. Female smokers generally go through menopause 1-4 years earlier than nonsmokers for this reason.
Smoking and male fertility
Smoking also affects sperm
at the most basic level: sperm’s DNA. Chemicals from smoking circulate through your body and can bind with the sperm’s DNA, decreasing sperm motility. Smoking has also been linked to lower sperm counts and erectile dysfunction. All of these make fertilization and conception more difficult.
Quitting and its benefits for fertility
The good news is that quitting can help your chances of conceiving quite quickly. Your natural fertility is likely to improve within two months of quitting, and the negative effects may be reversed within a year. For women, quitting smoking before conceiving also ensures a healthier pregnancy. It’s important to note that second-hand smoke has similar negative effects on fertility. So if both members of a couple smoke, it’s important for both of them to quit. And if you live in a household with other smokers, you may want to consider moving or make arrangements to minimize exposure to second-hand smoke.