Smoking and infertility
Can smoking affect my ability to have a child?
Most people understand that smoking increases the risk for heart, vascular, and lung disease. Many do not realize that smoking can also lead to problems with fertility in both men and women. Erectile dysfunction and pregnancy complication rates are also increased with smoking.
Will smoking affect my eggs or sperm?
Chemicals (such as nicotine, cyanide, and carbon monoxide) in cigarette smoke speed up the loss rate of eggs. Unfortunately, once eggs die off, they cannot regenerate or be replaced. This means that menopause occurs 1 to 4 years earlier in women who smoke (compared with non-smokers).
Male smokers can suffer decreased sperm quality with lower counts (numbers of sperm) and motility (sperm’s ability to move) and increased numbers of abnormally- shaped sperm. Smoking might also decrease the sperm’s ability to fertilize eggs.
How can smoking impact my ability to conceive?
Women who smoke do not conceive as efficiently as nonsmokers. Infertility rates in both male and female smokers are about twice the rate of infertility found in nonsmokers. The risk for fertility problems increases with the number of cigarettes smoked daily.
Even fertility treatments such as IVF may not be able to fully overcome smoking’s effects on fertility. Female smokers need more ovary-stimulating medications during IVF and still have fewer eggs at retrieval time and have 30% lower pregnancy rates compared with IVF patients who do not smoke.
Because smoking damages the genetic material in eggs and sperm, miscarriage and offspring birth-defect rates are higher among patients who smoke. Smokeless tobacco also leads to increased miscarriage rates. Women who smoke are more likely to conceive a chromosomally unhealthy pregnancy (such as a pregnancy affected by Down syndrome)
If an abnormally shaped sperm fertilizes the egg, does that mean that my child will have a higher risk of having genetic abnormalities?
We don’t know. There’s no relationship between the shape of a sperm and its genetic material. Once the sperm enters the egg, fertilization has a good chance of taking place. However, as some of the abnormalities in sperm shape may be the result of genetic disturbances, there may be some male offspring who will inherit the same type of morphology abnormalities as are found in their fathers’ sperm morphology.
If an abnormally shaped sperm can fertilize an egg, why does the shape matter?
No one is sure why the sperm shape matters. Men with abnormally shaped sperm tend to have more trouble causing a pregnancy, but we cannot say for sure whether that difficulty is caused by the shape of the sperm itself or by another reason that causes the sperm to be shaped differently and at the same time causes a problem with fertility.
Is there anything I can do to improve the shape of my sperm?
Research has not shown a clear relationship between abnormal sperm shape and tobacco, alcohol, or caffeine use, though some studies suggest that smoking can impair fertility. While you are trying for a pregnancy, you should not use tobacco or recreational drugs and you should limit your consumption of alcohol. These substances may hurt sperm DNA (material that carries your genes) quality. Studies have not shown a clear connection between caffeine consumption and changes in sperm shape. Remember that it may take up to 3 months for any changes to your sperm to become noticeable.
Are there any dietary supplements or vitamins that I can take to improve morphology or fertility?
Dietary supplements or vitamins have not been shown to improve sperm morphology or fertility. Some specialists recommend that you take a daily multivitamin to improve reproductive health even though the value of dietary multivitamins for this purpose is unproven.
For more information on this and other reproductive
health topics, visit www.ReproductiveFacts.org
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