Smoking and Infertility: The Harmful Effects of Tobacco on Female Fertility
The fact that nicotine has a negative impact on our health is well-known and scientifically proven. Nicotine consumption can cause accelerated ageing of the skin, impaired lung function and vascular calcification. In addition, smoking increases the risk of cancer and the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke. Most women know about the harmful effects of tobacco during pregnancy and how it is detrimental to the health of their unborn child, but smoking also has a negative effect on female fertility.
The Effect of Nicotine Consumption on Fertility
Tobacco smoke contains approximately 4,000 harmful chemicals that can impair egg cell development and disrupt hormone production. In addition, inhaling the toxins contained in cigarette smoke can lead to problems with the implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterus. This significantly decreases the chances of a successful pregnancy. Studies have shown that women who are non-smokers are twice as likely to become pregnant than women who smoke. Nicotine can also cause an irregular menstrual cycle and the premature onset of menopause. In order to improve the quality of the eggs, the body must have enough available antioxidants; however, smoking reduces vitamin C levels in the blood. The blood of smokers generally has a high cadmium content, which decreases the body’s capacity to absorb zinc—an important mineral for the functioning of the reproductive organs. The risk of miscarriage is also increased by nicotine consumption. But there’s more: Even passive smoking can have a negative effect on female fertility!
Research Shows a Correlation Between (Passive) Smoking and Infertility
This was determined by a study (Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study) by U.S. researchers at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo. The study analyzed data from 93,676 women aged 50 to 79 who had already gone through menopause and were either smokers or non-smokers. The participants were divided into different groups depending on how long they had been addicted to nicotine or how long they had smoked as well as by how long they had lived with a smoking partner or worked with a smoking colleague. The results of the study, which were published in the journal Tobacco Control, showed that the risk of infertility was 14 percent higher for former and current smokers than for non-smokers. The risk increased to 18 percent for women who had begun smoking before the age of 15 and rose to 21 percent for those who consumed at least 25 cigarettes per day. Significant differences between the women were also found regarding the onset of menopause. Women who had begun smoking at a young age reached menopause 22 months earlier than non-smokers, and those who consumed 25 cigarettes per day reached menopause 18 months earlier.
In addition, the researchers found that even passive smokers had a higher risk of infertility (18 percent!) compared to women who were not exposed to passive smoking. On average, passive smokers reached menopause 13 months earlier than women who had not been exposed to smoke. The decisive factors for passive smoking were having grown up with a smoker, having lived with a smoker for at least 20 years or having worked with a smoking colleague for at least 10 years.
The Bottom Line
Because of this and other studies that reveal a clear correlation between active and passive smoking and an increased risk of infertility, women who want to become pregnant should quit smoking immediately and also avoid secondhand smoke. Non-smokers have a 2.7 to 4.8 times higher chance of becoming pregnant with the help of IVF than smokers, so this especially applies to women who are undergoing fertility treatments.