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Get the facts on smoking and fertility

Research 5 May 2016
Baby smoking and fertility 700 467

We all know that smoking is harmful to health and that pregnant women shouldn't smoke, but what effect does smoking have on fertility? What does the research say about passive smoking? How long does it take for the ill effects of smoking to be reversed?

In recognition of World No Tobacco Day on 31 May, Your Fertility are teaming up with Quit Victoria to spread the word on how smoking affects both female and male fertility, as well as the health of the baby at birth and in adulthood. Here, are the facts that you need to know:

Male fertility

  • Smoking can damage the DNA in sperm, and sperm are particularly vulnerable to harmful components of tobacco smoke such as the heavy metal cadmium
  • Partners of male smokers take longer to conceive
  • Smoking can cause erectile dysfunction
  • Heavy smokers produce up to 20% fewer sperm than non-smokers

Female fertility

  • Each stage of female reproductive function (egg maturation, hormone production, embryo transport, and the environment in the womb) is affected by cigarette smoke
  • Women who smoke and undergo IVF treatment are 46% less likely to achieve a live birth than women who don't smoke
  • Smoking increases the risk of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy
  • The risk of miscarriage increases with the amount smoked – 1% increase in risk per cigarette smoked per day
  • Women who smoke reach menopause almost two years earlier than non-smokers

Health of the baby

  • Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of pregnancy complications, premature birth and low birth weight
  • Maternal smoking increases the risk of a range of birth defects
  • Exposure to cigarette smoke during pregnancy disrupts the development of the ovaries of female babies
  • Smoking by the father or both parents around the time of conception is a risk factor for childhood leukaemia
  • Babies born to mothers who smoke have an increased risk of respiratory problems

The good news: the benefits of quitting on fertility

  • Quitting smoking can improve natural fertility and some of the effects of smoking can be reversed within a year of stopping smoking
  • Women who stop smoking early in their pregnancy have babies with similar birthweights to babies of non-smokers
  • Stopping smoking early in the pregnancy also seems to reduce the risk of placental complications, infant illness and perinatal death

Find out more about the strong link between smoking and fertility on the Your Fertility website.