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Smoking and Fertility

the impact of smoking, alcohol, and drugs

We've all heard the saying, there is happiness in moderation; however, when it comes to fertility and alcohol, smoking, or illegal drugs, it's best to err on the side of safety and avoid altogether. Since there is no confirmed “safe” threshold of consumption, the U.S. Surgeon General recommends complete alcohol abstinence in women planning pregnancy, at conception, and during pregnancy.

Fertility, Alcohol, and Women

While "light" drinking (fewer than five drinks per week) is probably not detrimental, "heavy" drinking (two or more drinks per day) or binge drinking (five or more drinks at a time) can not only cause serious harm to a developing fetus but can also negatively impact your chance of conception by causing:

  • Higher rates of menstrual problems
  • Increased chance of miscarriage
  • Increased rate of birth defects (including fetal alcohol syndrome, or FAS)

Fertility, Alcohol, and Men

Excessive consumption of alcohol in men may impact fertility as well. Men who consume large quantities of alcoholic drinks (five or more drinks) may have lowered testosterone levels and reduced sperm quality and quantity. Alcohol is also linked to erectile dysfunction, or impotence, in men. For men, reducing the amount of alcohol consumed can quickly reverse these side effects.

Fertility, Smoking, and Women

Most people know that smoking can have an effect on their health. However, many don’t realize this includes their reproductive health. Compared to non-smokers, many smokers can experience up to a 54 percent higher chance that conception will take 1 year or longer. This delay in conception correlates with the daily quantity of cigarettes smoked. Smoking can also increase the rate of follicular depletion and reduce the levels of estrogen in the body.

Fertility treatment is also greatly impacted when the female partner smokes. Studies cite the following as side effects from smoking:

  • Decreased response to ovarian stimulation medications
  • Decreased number of eggs available for retrieval
  • Increased number of cancelled cycles
Fertility, Smoking, and Men

Smoking cigarettes can cause a decrease in the three main factors that determine a man’s sperm quality: sperm count, morphology (sperm shape), and motility (movement). Studies have shown that damage is not necessarily permanent and may vary by the quantity and length of smoking history. In general, a man’s fertility rate can completely return to normal within 1 year of quitting smoking.

Visit smokefree.gov for tips to help you quit smoking.

Fertility and Illegal Drugs

It's well documented that illegal drug use can have a negative impact on a person's life and well being; the same is true for its adverse effects on fertility. Illegal drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroine, and steroids, to name a few, have been shown to:

  • Decrease sperm counts and motility, making it less likely the sperm will fertilize an egg
  • Decrease a man's ability to maintain proper testosterone levels, which can affect sperm quality
  • Interrupt normal ovulation
  • Prevent implantation
  • Inhibit the ability to maintain a healthy pregnancy
  • Increase erectile dysfunction and reduce sexual performance
  • Increase rate of miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight, and bleeding in the brain

You should discuss any drug use—prescribed or illegal—with your physician before attempting to become pregnant. Treatment to overcome a drug addiction is available and will significantly improve the likelihood of becoming pregnant and having a healthy baby.

Did You Know?

Smoking cigarettes has substantial harmful effects on fertility. Couples undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) who smoke have approximately HALF the rate of success per cycle compared with non-smoking couples.

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