Men and women 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 both men and women.
- the DNA (genetic material) in eggs and sperm
- men’s and women’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 men's and women's 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.
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.
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.
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.
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Page created on: 29/08/2018 | Last updated: 29/05/2022