Smoking, it seems, is terrible for everything: lung health, heart health, overall fitness, skin and teeth. So it should come as no surprise that it can have adverse effects on fertility too.
Researchers have found that smoking is responsible for more than 13 per cent of female infertility.
A lot of women give up smoking before trying to conceive to protect their child. If, however, you continue smoking, you may find that your habit prevents you from getting pregnant in the first place.
But how much do you need to smoke for it to affect your chances of getting pregnant? Is one or two cigarettes per week too much?
A 2017 study found that women who smoke more than six cigarettes per day tend to have more trouble conceiving than their non-smoking counterparts.
The figure, however, was just the number of cigarettes that achieved statistical significance. The study did not conclude that smoking one or two cigarettes per day was safe for women looking to get pregnant. It probably isn’t.
So why is smoking so bad for fertility, exactly?
It turns out that lighting up harms women’s reproductive system through several mechanisms, preventing conception.
Women are only fertile for a portion of their lives. Researchers think that this is because they are born with all the eggs that they will ever have. Once these become damaged and unviable, the woman can no longer become pregnant. Smoking can both damage and decrease the number of eggs available in the ovaries, shortening the fertility window by up to four years.
Smoking, of course, doesn’t just damage the mother – it also hurts the child, especially in the early stages of pregnancy.
The list of birth defects that the child can experience is enormous. Researchers have found that smoking during pregnancy leads to a range of conditions, including undescended testes, clubfoot, cleft lip and palate, missing or extra fingers and toes, limb defects, and cardiovascular issues. Overall the children of women who smoke appear to have a two-fold increase in congenital disabilities compared to children whose mothers do not smoke.
The good news is that it is never too late to give up smoking. So long as you haven’t hit the menopause, you can kick the habit, get on the road to health, and make it more likely that you’ll conceive in the future. Try searching for fertility clinics in the UK to find out more about your current fertility and the options available to you.