The detrimental health hazards of smoking like cancers, emphysema, heart disease, etc. are well known by most people. A lesser known fact is that smoking also affects male and female reproductive health. Every individual must realize that whether they plan to have a baby sooner or later in life, smoking can drastically compromise the health of their reproductive system.
On Male Infertility
Men, who smoke, tend to have lower sperm count and sperm motility than those who do not. Some studies even suggest that male smokers are more likely to produce sperm that are genetically abnormal. If the female partner does conceive, the chances of the genetic damage passing on to the developing baby or posing a risk to the pregnancy are quite high.
Smoking (including second-hand smoke) can also cause sexual problems like erectile dysfunction, indirectly affecting fertility.
On Female Infertility
Women, who smoke, take longer to conceive compared to women who do not. They have lower estrogen levels which hamper the development and maturation of the eggs. Smoking is known to prevent proper ovulation by damaging the fallopian tubes and reducing the ovarian reserve, particularly in terms of egg quality and count.
On women undergoing IVF treatment
Smoking considerably reduces the success rates of women undergoing IVF treatment. This could be largely due to the fact that smoking results in vascular problems which hinder the implantation of the embryo into the wall of the uterus. Women opting for IVF treatment are therefore advised to quit smoking before commencing any fertility treatments.
Effects on an unborn baby
Even if a woman succeeds in conceiving, other harmful effects of smoking might hinder her chances of conceiving. These effects include:
- Reduced birth weight
- Premature birth
- Pre-term related deaths
- Deaths caused by sudden infant death syndrome
- Increased risk of congenital defects
ASH organization research also suggests that smoking reduces the development of a healthy reproductive system in the unborn child which might result in low fertility in the male/female child in the future. For example, studies show that women who smoked during pregnancy are at increased risk of giving birth to male children with smaller testes and lower sperm count. Children born to parents who smoke are more likely to develop respiratory infections like asthma and wheezing.
Quitting smoking may not be easy but at the same time it is not impossible. If you are planning to have a baby, it is not only advisable but essential that you cut back and eventually stop smoking. It may require a lot of effort and discipline from your end but nothing can match up to the joy that you experience when you hold your baby in your arms for the first time.