12 February 2020

Smoking can half your chances of getting pregnant

Smoking can half your chances of getting pregnant
Medical Director
Cesar Diaz-Garcia
MD PhD Assoc Prof
IVI London


If you smoke, it is said to take you nearly twice as long as non-smoker to get pregnant. On average couples who are having regular unprotected sex are likely to get pregnant within the year. For smokers the chances of getting pregnant almost double to two years. This is true for both women trying to become pregnant for the first time and also women suffering from secondary infertility.

Pregnancy and smoking

Smoking is one of many causes of infertility problems however, it is also one of the ones you have the power to change. Smoking when pregnant increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth and ectopic pregnancy.

Why should I quit smoking when trying to conceive?

The good news is, a woman who has quit smoking has the same chances of getting pregnant as a woman who has never smoked. For women, quitting smoking when trying to conceive can help in a number of ways. Firstly, quitting smoking helps improve the lining of the womb. Becoming a non-smoker will also help if you are going through fertility treatment, such as IVF.

What if my partner smokes?

There are several benefits to your partner stopping smoking. Passive smoking; Breathing in the smoke from your partner is just as likely to affect your fertility than if you were to smoke yourself. Having support from your partner is a key factor when trying to give up smoking. If your partner continues to smoke when you are trying to quit, you are a lot more likely to give in.

How does smoking affect male fertility?

Smoking has multiple effects on the male reproductive system, such as reduce the quality of the sperm and the sperm count, increase the abnormalities in the sperm and erectile dysfunction.

Is male infertility caused by smoking reversible?

Again, the good news is that stopping can reverse some of the damage done by smoking. In fact, if the male chooses to quit all side effects from smoking are likely to improve over time.

When should I stop smoking?

It is normally recommended to stop smoking at least four months before trying to get pregnant.  It is important to stop smoking altogether as even low levels of smoking can be harmful to the pregnancy and increase the chances of ectopic pregnancies, premature births and low birth rates.

Can I use nicotine replacement products?

Stopping altogether is better for both you and your baby’s health. However, this is easier said than done. Nicotine is very addictive and it is common to have strong cravings for cigarettes and withdrawal symptoms such as restlessness and irritability. If you are struggling to quit, you might consider nicotine replacement therapy before trying to get pregnant. These will help ease the withdrawal symptoms by giving you small amounts of nicotine, but without the harmful toxins and chemicals, you get from smoking tobacco. However, we would recommend not even using these once pregnant.

What if I’m already pregnant?

It is never too late to stop smoking. Stopping smoking during pregnancy helps reduce the chances of experiencing pregnancy issues as well as help reduce the chances of your baby being ill the first few months of being born.

How do I quit smoking?

There are a lot of support groups available giving you advice and next steps when wanting to quit. If you have been trying to conceive for over a year it would be a good time to consult with one of our IVI specialists who will also be able to advise you on the best ways to quit and improve your chances of getting pregnant.

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