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People who smoke take longer to get pregnant than non-smokers. Second-hand smoke is almost as damaging as smoking and women who are exposed to second-hand smoke take longer to conceive than women who are not. The chemicals in cigarettes can cause damage to eggs and sperm which affects a future child's health.

Why? Because smoking affects every stage of the reproduction process – in people of all genders.

Smoking affects:

  • the DNA (genetic material) in eggs and sperm
  • people's hormone production  
  • the fertilised egg’s ability to reach the uterus
  • the environment inside the uterus, where the baby grows.

Research shows that smokers are more likely to experience infertility than non-smokers.

Quitting at least three months before trying for a baby is important to make sure the sperm is healthy when the baby is conceived.



Passive smoking (inhaling someone else’s smoke) doesn’t affect the chance of having a baby, or the baby’s health.


Women who are exposed to other people’s smoke take longer to get pregnant. Passive smoking is almost as damaging to your unborn baby's health as smoking.

Take a look at the Quit for fertility interactive tool, developed with Quit Victoria. Find out how smoking affects fertility, pregnancy and the baby's health, and how you can improve your natural fertility and reverse some of the effects of smoking within a year of stopping.


  • Men who smoke can have problems getting and keeping erections.
  • Smoking damages the DNA (genetic material) in sperm, which is transferred to the baby.
  • Men produce sperm all the time. Sperm take about three months to mature. This is why quitting at least three months before trying for a baby is important to make sure the sperm is healthy when the baby is conceived. 
  • Heavy smoking (more than 20 cigarettes per day) by fathers at the time of conception increases the child’s risk of childhood leukemia.


  • Women who smoke in pregnancy are more likely than non-smokers to have a miscarriage. Their babies have increased risk of low birth weight, being born prematurely and having birth defects.
  • If women are exposed to cigarette smoke during pregnancy, including inhaling other people’s smoke (passive smoking) it can affect the development of a baby girl’s ovaries.
  • Every cigarette smoked increases the risk of miscarriage by one percent.
  • Smoking increases a woman’s risk of having an ectopic pregnancy, where the baby starts to develop outside the uterus, most commonly in the fallopian tube, where it will not survive, and is dangerous for the mother.

Fatherhood begins before conception

Professor Rob McLachlan from Andrology Australia explains how smoking damages sperm and affects a future baby's health.

  • The good news

    A healthy baby starts with healthy sperm and healthy eggs. The good news is that the effects of smoking on eggs and sperm and fertility are reversible. Whether it’s the male or the female (or both) who smokes, quitting will increase the chance of conceiving and having a healthy baby.

    If men quit:

    It doesn’t matter how long a man has smoked for. As soon as he stops smoking, his sperm will become healthier.

    It takes about three months for sperm to mature. Men who quit at least three months before conception will have much healthier sperm with a greater chance of fertilising an egg, and creating a healthy baby.

    If women quit:

    Quitting improves the chance of getting pregnant. 

    Stopping smoking can improve natural fertility and some of the effects of smoking can be reversed within a year of quitting.

    Women who quit smoking before conception or within the first three months of pregnancy reduce the risk of their baby being born prematurely to the same level of risk for non-smokers.

    Women who stop smoking early in their pregnancy have babies with similar birth weights as babies born to non-smokers. Women who quit before their third trimester can avoid much of the effects smoking has on birth weight.

  • Quitting together

    People find it harder to quit if their partner smokes. It’s much easier to stop smoking if you do it with your partner or with another person. If you’re in a relationship, deciding to quit together is best for everyone – parents and their future baby.

Clear the air for your baby

Dr. Raelia Lew, fertility specialist and gynaecologist explains how smoking affects your fertility and the child's health.

  • How can I quit smoking?

    Quitting can be difficult but the benefits for parents-to-be and for the baby are enormous. You can talk to your doctor about what’s available to help you stop smoking.

    Visit Quit Victoria for more information about how smoking affects your health, and lots of practical tips and advice to help you kick the habit. You can also watch personal stories from ex-smokers and talk to someone who will help you quit.

Quit for fertility

Dr. Sarah White, Director of Quit Victoria shares her advice on how future parents can quit to improve their fertility and their future child's health.

  • References
    • Augood, et al. (1998). Smoking and female infertility: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Human Reproduction, 13(6), 1532-1539.
    • Day, J., et al. (2016). Influence of paternal preconception exposures on their offspring: through epigenetics to phenotype. American Journal of Stem Cells, 5(1), 11-18
    • Dechanet, C., et al. (2011). Effects of cigarette smoking on reproduction. Human Reproduction Update, 17(1), 76-95. doi: 10.1093/humupd/dmq033
    • Duckworth, A., & Azulay Chertok, I. (2012). Review of Perinatal partner-focused smoking cessation interventions. The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing, 37(3), 174-181.
    • Fakuda, M., et al. (2011). Paternal smoking habits affect the reproductive life span of daughters. Fertility and Sterility, 95(8), 2542-2544.
    • Fowler, P. A., et al. (2014). In utero exposure to cigarette smoke dysregulates human fetal ovarian developmental signalling. Human Reproduction. doi: 10.1093/humrep/deu117
    • Hackshaw, A., et al. (2011). Maternal smoking in pregnancy and birth defects: a systematic review based on 173 687 malformed cases and 11.7 million controls. Hum Reprod Update, 17(5), 589-604.
    • Hart, R. J. (2016). Physiological Aspects of Female Fertility: Role of the Environment, Modern Lifestyle, and Genetics. Physiological Reviews, 96(3), 873-909. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00023.2015
    • Hyland, A., et al. (2015). Associations between lifetime tobacco exposure with infertility and age at natural menopause: the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study. Tobacco Control. doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2015-052510
    • Jackson, et al. (2015). The influence of partner’s behavior on health behavior change: The English longitudinal study of ageing. JAMA Internal Medicine, 175(3), 385-392. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.7554
    • Lassi, Z., et al. (2014). Preconception care: caffeine, smoking, alcohol, drugs and other environmental chemical/radiation exposure. Reproductive Health, 11(Suppl 3), S6.
    • Milne, E., et al. (2011). Parental Prenatal Smoking and Risk of Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. American Journal of Epidemiology. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwr275
    • Mínguez-Alarcón, et al. (2018). Caffeine, alcohol, smoking, and reproductive outcomes among couples undergoing assisted reproductive technology treatments. Fertility and Sterility, 110(4), 587-592.
    • Mutsaerts, M. A. Q., et al. (2014). Effects of paternal and maternal lifestyle factors on pregnancy complications and perinatal outcome. A population-based birth-cohort study: the GECKO Drenthe cohort. Human Reproduction, 29(4), 824-834. doi: 10.1093/humrep/deu006
    • Sharma, R., et al. (2013). Lifestyle factors and reproductive health: taking control of your fertility. [Review]. Reprod Biol Endocrinol, 11(66), 1477-7827.
    • Sobinoff, A. P., et al. (2014). Damaging legacy: maternal cigarette smoking has long-term consequences for male offspring fertility. Human Reproduction. doi: 10.1093/humrep/deu235

Page created on: 29/08/2018 | Last updated: 16/07/2024

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