In England and Wales 17% of women smoke during pregnancy and for women under 20 this rises to 45%. The link between smoking and the lungs is well-known, but the link between smoking and fertility less so. Can smoking prevent you from getting pregnant? We investigate below. Do cigarettes affect fertility? The short answer is yes.

So, How Does Smoking Affect Fertility?

There are strong links between smoking and fertility. In fact, almost all studies support that smoking has a detrimental effect on both male and female reproductive system. Evidence suggests that smoking can also reduce the success rate of fertility treatment.

Even passive smoking (second-hand smoke) can affect your chance of conceiving, research has shown.

Can Smoking Prevent You From Getting Pregnant?

Although smoking alone may not prevent you from getting pregnant, it can significantly harm your chances. Infertility is when you have not become pregnant within 12 months of trying. Sadly, women who smoke are twice as likely to be infertile as non-smokers.

The Journal of Biosocial Science published a study by Dr Marcus Munafo which clearly showed that smoking makes conception harder; in the study women who smoked took longer to become pregnant than women who didn’t smoke.

And it’s not just your chance of getting pregnant that can be affected if you smoke. If you do become pregnant, female smokers have a higher risk of ectopic pregnancy – up to three times higher than non-smokers, which is a considerable difference. Ectopic pregnancy is where the fertilised egg becomes implanted outside of the womb – usually (but not always) in the fallopian tubes.

Smoking has also been linked to increased miscarriage risk, stillbirth and infant mortality. In the UK alone, smoking during pregnancy causes up to 5,000 miscarriages, 300 perinatal deaths and around 2,200 premature births each year. In fact, women who have smoked during their reproductive years are 16% more likely than non-smokers to miscarry.

And it doesn’t only have an impact on women’s fertility…

Can Smoking Lower Sperm Count In Men?

Smoking is strongly linked to sperm health and can cause a few different issues in men who are trying to conceive with their partner. Not only does smoking reduce the quality of the semen, but it can affect sperm motility and can also impact sperm DNA, leading to increased risk of birth defects. In some cases, smoking can also contribute to erectile dysfunction.

Dr Gorgy, Fertility Consultant at The Fertility & Gynaecology Academy says: “You and your partner can give yourselves the best chance of conceiving by quitting smoking at least three months before you start trying for a baby. In women this will improve the quality of the lining of the womb and reduce your risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and infant mortality. In men, this will improve the quality of sperm and reduce risk of birth defects. It will also increase your chances of getting pregnant.

“But it’s important not to forget that other lifestyle changes like your weight, and the food you eat all contribute to your conception efforts and to a healthy pregnancy.”

Before any fertility treatment at The Fertility & Gynaecology Academy we recommend our patients read our pre-treatment advice. This is useful information for those at all stages of their conception journey, whether you’ve just started or have been trying for some time.

If you’ve been trying for 12 months without success, it may be time to book in with a fertility consultant to see if anything can be done to improve your chances of becoming pregnant.

At The Fertility & Gynaecology Academy, we are here with you every step of the way. To find out how we can help you, or to book a consultation with Dr Gorgy, call our London clinic on 020 7224 1880.