A commonly asked question by couples on their fertility journey is “What can I do to improve my chance of conceiving?” For the one in five Irish adults who smoke every day*, quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do, not only if you are trying to conceive but also for your future health, pregnancy and birth.
Smoking and infertility
Did you know smoking causes physiological changes in both men and women? For this reason it may be harder and take some couples longer to conceive where one or both partners smoke.
If a woman smokes, it can affect each stage of the reproductive process, including egg maturation, hormone production, embryo transport and the environment in the uterus. Women who smoke are also more likely to go through menopause at a younger age.
For men who smoke, sperm quality and numbers can be adversely affected. This means that the sperm don’t swim as well and a higher proportion appear abnormal. In the longer term, smoking damages blood vessels, making it more likely for men to develop erectile problems and sexual dysfunction.
Smoking and pregnancy
By avoiding exposure to first or second hand (passive) smoke, you give your unborn baby the best chance of normal growth and being born close to full term. Forming a strong placenta with healthy blood vessels is critical to sustain a baby’s optimal growth and nutrition in pregnancy. It also provides the baby with the resilience to cope without distress through a normal labour. Your baby will be less likely to be delivered by caesarean or need to be admitted to a neonatal intensive care nursery. Additionally, the toxins from cigarettes can also trigger a miscarriage.
Smoking and the baby’s health
By quitting smoking you lessen your baby’s risk of developing childhood asthma and allergies. You also reduce your baby’s risk of cot death, otherwise known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS.
Quitting improves your natural fertility
There is more good news for quitters. Sperm is constantly reproduced within the male testicles and takes approximately three months to mature, meaning that in just a few months after quitting a man’s sperm is ‘smoke free’ and ‘baby ready’! If you are struggling with the burden of infertility and watching your partner go through invasive treatments, you may often suffer feelings of helplessness and even guilt. If you smoke, quitting is a huge gesture of support to your partner, showing her that you are willing to tackle something really difficult so you can have a baby together.
For women, quitting smoking has been shown to enhance both natural fertility and IVF outcomes.
Furthermore, couples who quit together are much more likely to permanently kick the habit. Choosing to quit smoking when you are thinking about starting a family is an amazing gift you can give to your baby.
If you are struggling to give up smoking, speak to your GP for more advice. If you are already seeing a Fertility Specialist, discuss your concerns with them and they can provide you with help on what to do next.
Alternatively, there are many resources you can turn to online for help such as www.quit.ie.