Smoking and Your Fertility

Quitting smoking may make it easier to have a healthy baby

Wanting to have a baby is the most natural thing in the world. Many little girls spend hours playing house and cuddling their dolls, and pretty much every teenager quietly (or not so quietly) schemes about how their parenting skills are going to outpace those of their parents...by far.

But in these girls' imaginations, are cigarettes present? Do we visualize cuddling our perfect little bundle with a cigarette hanging from our mouth? Do we think that our hacking cough is going to get in the way of telling our children how much we love them? Probably not, and perhaps one reason is that people who smoke actually have a much harder time than nonsmokers in achieving a pregnancy.

Men who smoke are more likely to have problems with their sperm than nonsmokers. For women, the problems add up. Nicotine is toxic to the ovary and, in at least one study, researchers actually found the chemical in the fluid in the follicle where the egg develops. The idea of a little egg bathing in nicotine makes me shudder.

The impact of smoking on fertility is so strong that it basically adds a decade to your fertility. In other words, a 20-year-old smoker is as fertile as a 30-year-old nonsmoker. The older you get, the harder it is to get pregnant, even with high-tech infertility treatment. So adding a decade to your fertility span is a huge problem if you want to have a baby. Many infertility centers in the United States won't even treat women who smoke, since their chances of being successful are so much lower than in nonsmokers.

So no matter your age, if you would like to become a parent someday, probably the best thing you can do for yourself is to either never smoke or, if you are already a smoker, to stop as soon as you are able. I am not saying that smoking is true birth control and that smokers can't get pregnant (I personally am evidence of that, as my mom gave up smoking only after she learned that I was on the way), but smoking sure does make it a tougher and longer process.

Read about other women's health issues on Dr. Alice Domar's blog.

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