World No Tobacco Day: Expert answers common questions on smoking and its effect on male & female fertility

It’s a well-known fact that smoking is injurious to health and can also affect your fertility irrespective of gender. “The issue can be witnessed right from the conceiving as it delays the process and causes hindrance. Generally, a couple, who is having unprotected sex every 2-3 days, gets pregnant within a year. But, for smokers, the chances of conceiving become almost half. In such a scenario, quitting smoking is the only option for such couples,” said Dr. Aswati Nair, Fertility Consultant, Nova IVF Fertility, New Delhi.

She added that women who smoke are more prone to infertility than the ones who don’t. “And, it affects the success rates of fertility treatment, such as IVF,” she told indianexpress.

Below, Dr Nair answers some commonly-asked questions about smoking and fertility:

Will my chances of getting pregnant improve if I stop smoking?

Yes, it is definitely helpful in the case of a man and woman both. The best part is that women, who have quit smoking, don’t take any longer to get pregnant than women who have never smoked. Becoming a non-smoker will also help if you are going through fertility
treatment, such as IVF.

Does passive smoking also affect?

Passive smoking, also known as secondhand smoking, highly affects the chances of conceiving. Even if you don’t smoke, breathing in the smoke from your partner’s cigarettes can damage your ability to get pregnant.

How does smoking affect men’s fertility?

Smoking can induce fertility problems in men by reducing the quality of semen, causing the semen to have a lower sperm count; affecting the sperm’s movement and at times it can make the man impotent as well. However, there is still a silver lining for these men if they
quit smoking and with time, some of the damages can be controlled.

There are several medications that have proven to be effective in helping people quit. (Photo: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

What’s the ideal time to quit smoking if I am planning to conceive?

Ideally, a couple should stop smoking completely when they decide on starting a family. However, it has been seen that instead of quitting, they cut down on smoke. Even low levels of smoking can hamper your pregnancy. Smoking 1-5 cigarettes a day makes you more susceptible to ectopic pregnancy. Later in pregnancy, smoking can also cause birth defects, growth restrictions, and maternal high blood pressure. Smoking fewer cigarettes does nothing to bring down the risk of premature birth or low birth weight. Low-tar or low nicotine cigarettes are just as harmful to you and your baby’s health. If you have quit smoking before becoming pregnant then all your risks will become minimal as a non-smoker woman.

What are the biggest challenges involved with quitting smoking while coping with infertility?

For few couples, infertility could be an incredibly stressful situation to deal with and it has been seen that people adhere to smoking to deal with the stress. So it’s important to find other ways to cope with stress so that your reproductive health doesn’t get hampered any
further. Doctors play a key role in providing assistance for quitting smoking. There are several medications that have proven to be effective in helping people quit. To get started, schedule an appointment with your doctor and ask for help.

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