Does Smoking Really Hurt Fertility?

The average time to successfully conceive naturally increases with the number of cigarettes smoked per day


It’s widely recognized that smoking has many adverse health effects, including increasing the risk of many cancers. Smoking can also increase the risks of heart and lung disease, and cause premature aging of the skin. However, what is not as widely recognized is that smoking also has a marked adverse effect on reproduction.

Effects of smoking on natural fertility

Multiple research studies show smoking decreases natural fertility. The average time to successfully conceive naturally increases with the number of cigarettes smoked per day. Smokers are 1.6 times more likely to experiencing infertility if either the female or male partner smokes. Passive smoke has only a slighter smaller effect on fertility. Being in an environment with a lot of second-hand smoke WILL decrease fertility.

Smoking has been found to be associated with an earlier menopause. In some studies, menopause has been found to occur up to four years earlier in smokers. This effect is dose dependent, with heavy smokers at a much higher risk of early menopause. Smoking has been shown to decrease sperm counts by over 20 percent.

Effect of smoking on fertility treatment

Studies have consistently found that smoking decreases the chance of success with IVF. Smoking appears to increase the dose of medication needed, and increases the chance of cycle cancelation. Smoking also increases the chance of failure of fertilization, and decreases the chance of a successful outcome. Studies have shown that smokers require twice the number of IVF cycles to successfully conceive. For each year smoked, there is a 9 percent increased risk of an IVF cycle being unsuccessful. It has been shown that the adverse effect on fertility is much more marked with older women, as there appears to be an additive acceleration of the aging of eggs in smokers.

The adverse effects of smoking on fertility are multifaceted. Smoking causes blood vessels to constrict, affecting blood supply to the early embryo. There is an antimetabolic effect, which adversely affects tissue development. Smoking may also increase the risk of DNA damage.

Effects of smoking on pregnancy

As well as decreasing fertility, smoking increases the risk of miscarriage and may even increase the risk of a tubal pregnancy. Smoking results in placental insufficiency, which may cause inadequate growth of the developing infant. Smoking is associated with premature birth.

The big picture

There are a number of factors that may adversely affect a couple’s chance of conceiving: maternal age, paternal age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, obesity and smoking. Most of these factors cannot be changed. Discontinuing smoking and controlling weight are two of the few things that can be done to improve a couple’s chance of success. Studies have shown that most adverse effects from smoking are reversed within a year.

If you are a smoker and want to get pregnant… NOW IS THE TIME TO QUIT!!!