Everyone knows the dangers of smoking in pregnancy. But we’re not so clued up on the fact that cigarettes can cut your chances of getting pregnant in the first place.
Is smoking really lowering my fertility?
Smoking inflicts huge damage on your body – from your arteries to your eyes. So it’s no surprise that it’s linked to fertility problems too. We don’t know exactly how this happens but it may be because it affects your sex hormones. Overall, though, smoking reduces your risk of conceiving by up to 40 per cent. It’s also likely to reduce your chances of successful fertility treatment, too. And though the risk goes up the more you smoke, even a ‘low’ level – under 10 a day – can cause problems.
What about my partner?
It’s not doing him any good either. For one thing, smoking’s linked to impotence – so if he’s having sexual problems, it makes even more sense to quit. And for another, the cigarettes are damaging both the quality and the quantity of his sperm.
Surely the stress of giving up is just as damaging?
In terms of your fertility – quite apart from your pregnancy when you do conceive – it doesn’t work that way. In any case, the links between stress and conception are quite complicated and there’s some evidence that stress does not play all that much of a role. So that excuse won’t quite work.
Does that really rule out all cigarettes – even the odd one at a party?
Yes. Quite apart from anything else, cigarettes are extraordinarily addictive. ‘Just the one’ is very unlikely to stop at just one, as every smoker knows.
So how long will it take for my fertility to increase after stopping?
Like other smoking-related damage, you can reverse the dent in your fertility pretty quickly. Most studies show that once you’ve given up completely, your fertility goes back to the level it would be at if you’d never smoked. If you’re a former smoker and you’re having problems conceiving, it’s unlikely to be the cigarettes to blame. However, as an egg takes at least three months to mature in your body, it is a good idea to put off trying for a baby till several months after your last cigarette, in order to give everyone the best chance possible.