31 May 2022

How does smoking tobacco damage fertility?

Consultant Gynaecologist
Dr Tomasz Lukaszewski
MD PhD

IVI London

 

Every year, May 31 marks World No Tobacco Day with the goal of helping raise awareness about the health consequences of smoking tobacco. Among the negative health consequences for both men and women is infertility. Dr Tomasz Lukaszewski, Consultant Gynaecologist at IVI London, answers some of the most common questions we receive about the connection between smoking and infertility.

 

How does smoking affect male fertility?

Smoking tobacco affects fertility potential in men in several ways. Not only does it lower sperm quality, negatively impacting your sperm count, sperm motility and sperm morphology, but it can also lead to sperm DNA fragmentation, which is a leading cause of infertility in men. Sperm DNA damage also increases the risk of miscarriage if a pregnancy is achieved. In addition, men who smoke are more likely to experience erectile dysfunction, which can make it difficult to conceive without medical intervention. Take an in-depth look at the affect of smoking tobacco on male fertility.

 

How does smoking affect female fertility?

For women, smoking disrupts normal ovarian function and the production of reproductive hormones, such as oestrogen and progesterone. Toxins from smoking tobacco also damage the eggs in the ovaries. Egg quality is reduced and the risk of miscarriage and birth defects, such as cleft lip or cleft palate, increases. Smoking also negatively affects IVF outcomes, leading to fewer eggs being collected at egg collection and lower fertilisation, implantation, and pregnancy rates. It can also increase your risk of having an ectopic pregnancy, which can potentially be life-threatening.

 

Can second-hand smoke affect fertility too?

Yes. Even if you’re not a smoker, passive exposure to cigarette smoke can damage your fertility. If you live with a partner who smokes, inhalation of second-hand smoke can lead to many of the same health problems caused by smoking. This applies even if your partner doesn’t smoke inside the house. That is why it is strongly recommended that if you and your partner are trying to conceive, you should both try to quit.

 

How long after quitting smoking will my fertility improve?

For both men and women, fertility should improve quickly. However, this will depend on how long you have been smoking, and how frequently you smoke. In any case, within a month, you should see improvements in your natural fertility levels. After two months, women should have a similar likelihood of getting pregnant as someone who has never smoked. Meanwhile, sperm should be much healthier three months after quitting. The best thing you can do for your fertility and for your overall health is quit today.

If you are finding it difficult to quit, there is help available, such as the free Better Health: Quit Smoking NHS program.

There are also free telephone available which you can call free to speak to a smoking advisor.

  • In England, call the Smokefree National Helpline on 0300 123 1044
  • In Scotland, call the free Smokeline on 0800 84 84 84
  • In Wales, call the free Help Me Quit helpline on 0800 085 2219
  • In Northern Ireland, call a local provider using the telephone numbers on the Want2Stop website.

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