Can Smoking Reduce Fertility?

25th July 2022

Smoking is one of the most addictive legal habits a person can have. Be it cigarettes, cigars, or something else, the effects of inhaling smoke are known to be toxic and deadly. Smoking can lead to all manner of different health conditions, including many different respiratory issues such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and lung cancer. But, can smoking also affect your fertility? Around one in six couples in the United Kingdom will struggle to conceive, and it can be incredibly difficult to pinpoint the actual reason why. Fertility can be a very sensitive topic which is affected by many different factors. 

Both male and female fertility rates can be the reason why a couple may struggle to conceive, with both of these again being affected by multiple different factors. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to attribute fertility problems to one particular reason without doing fertility tests. 

For men, the most common cause of low fertility rates is a low sperm count. This is where the sperm in his ejaculate is less than 15 million per millilitre. For a woman, the most common cause of low fertility is polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS. PCOS is caused by a hormone imbalance in the body and is a condition that affects ovulation. 

But what about other factors that could affect fertility, such as smoking. In this article, we will provide you with insight about smoking and fertility in both men and women, as well as ways you can quit smoking, and the effects doing so will have.

A woman snapping a cigarette in half.

Does smoking affect fertility?

It is a well-known fact that smoking is not good for you and that it can have serious effects on your health. But does smoking affect fertility? Whilst people know not to smoke when they are pregnant, many people are not actually aware of the effects of smoking when they are trying to get pregnant. Of course, everyone's fertility is different, and some people will find it easy to get pregnant whilst others will struggle. 

Does smoking affect fertility in females?

In general, women that do not smoke when they are trying to get pregnant may find it easier to conceive. Smoking is obviously not the only factor that affects fertility, however, it can be a contributing one. The chemicals inhaled during smoking are known to damage the genetic material of a woman’s eggs, which can make it harder to conceive. This is also why pregnant women should not smoke as altering genetic material can lead to child disability, or even miscarriage. It is recommended that if a woman is trying to get pregnant, she should stop smoking and drinking excessively as this will promote healthy and normal bodily functions such as ovulation. 

Does smoking affect fertility in males?

The same can be said for men. When a man smokes, the chemicals he inhales can harm the quality of the sperm that he produces, making it much harder for him to impregnate a woman. Unlike a woman, a man smoking cannot cause a miscarriage, however, if he smokes, his sperm may be altered genetically, leading to potential issues chromosomally, such as Down syndrome. Sperm mobility will also be affected when a man smokes, making it harder for a sperm to reach the egg for fertilisation. Smoking can also increase the risk of erectile dysfunction in men, which in turn will affect fertility. Men who smoke 20 or more cigarettes per day are actually 60% more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction than men who do not smoke. 

How can you quit smoking?

So what can you do if you want to quit smoking in order to help with your fertility? Thankfully, there are many different ways that you can achieve your goal of quitting smoking. One of the best ways of quitting smoking is by replacing the source of your nicotine. Nicotine is the addictive substance in cigarettes, this is what your body craves from smoking. By using a nicotine alternative product such as a spray, chewing gum, or patch, your body will be getting the nicotine you crave without the need to smoke. 

A hand rejecting a packet of cigarettes.

Does stopping smoking increase fertility?

By stopping smoking, you will be benefiting not just your overall health, but also your fertility. When you stop smoking, your body will gradually get healthier, and your body will begin to work as it should. This includes your respiratory system, which should return to normal around a month after you have quit smoking. 

How long after quitting smoking does female fertility improve?

After a woman quits smoking, her fertility will begin to return to normal as soon as she stops smoking. The female reproductive system takes around three months for eggs to fully mature, meaning that you may wish to wait for around three months after you quit smoking before you start trying for a baby again. This is because your egg quality may not have improved enough until three months after quitting. 

How long after quitting smoking does male fertility improve?

The same goes for men. When a man stops smoking, his sperm quality will improve almost instantly. New sperm are produced every day, however, it can take a couple of months for a full sperm regeneration cycle to take place. Again, this may mean that your fertility may take a couple of months before it returns to optimal levels. You may struggle to conceive during this period, so it may be for the best to wait for the three months previously mentioned.

Sources

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/smoking-and-tobacco-applying-all-our-health/smoking-and-tobacco-applying-all-our-health#:~:text=Smoking%20reduces%20fertility%20and%20significantly,diabetes%2C%20eye%20disease%20and%20dementia.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/characteristics-of-women-who-stop-smoking-in-pregnancy

https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/mens-health/how-can-i-improve-my-chances-of-becoming-a-dad/#:~:text=Smoking,(sudden%20infant%20death%20syndrome).

https://yorkshiresmokefree.nhs.uk/articles/how-smoking-affects-bones-reproduction-and-fertility

https://yorkshiresmokefree.nhs.uk/pages/fertility

http://www.shropshireivf.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Smoking-and-Conception.pdf

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/infertility/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jQsaKJf3ic