It is a strange fact that smokers know that smoking is bad for their health, and that it causes a great number of deaths from cancer, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, etc., and yet very few people are aware that it also affects our fertility. Smoking can put reproduction at risk both in women and men.
- In women smoking can cause:
- Menstrual problems.
- Problems with the Fallopian tubes.
- Cervical problems.
- An increased probability of ectopic pregnancy.
Likewise, it is well known by professionals in reproductive medicine that treatments for sterility and infertility have worse results for couples where at least one partner smokes.
Tobacco is so harmful to female fertility that you could go as far as to say that tobacco adds ten years onto a woman’s reproductive age, meaning that a woman of 30 who smokes has the same problems as a woman of 40 who is a non-smoker.
What is better known is that smoking during pregnancy can damage the health of the baby. Children of mothers who smoke generally have a lower body weight at birth, as well as a more stressful birth.
- In men, smoking can cause problems with semen composition. In fact, cigarettes contain hundreds of compounds, some of which are, beyond any doubt, responsible for ruptures in spermatozoa DNA, which is something that will cause great difficulties in achieving pregnancy, even when undergoing assisted reproduction treatments. Among these chemicals are alkaloids such as nicotine as well as toxic compounds such as polyphenols, aromatic hydrocarbons, aldehydes, amines and even pesticides.
- In general, couples who are trying to conceive should seriously consider stopping smoking, especially those suffering from infertility without any apparent cause, and men whose sperm count is on the limit. It is important that both partners stop smoking, because of the effects of passive smoking.
Drugs and Alcohol
Substantial consumption of alcohol, according to various studies, can cause a lower number of spermatozoa, lower levels of testosterone (the male hormone which has a role in sperm production) and increased levels of oestrogen.
In the case of women, drinking alcohol can cause irregular menstrual cycles and anovulatory periods (when menstruation occurs without ovulation). Alcohol can also increase the chances of spontaneous miscarriage once a woman has become pregnant and can cause a serious number of birth defects, which are known as Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, or FAS.
In terms of drugs, the habitual consumption of the most common drug, marijuana, can make natural fertilisation of the egg difficult as the spermatozoa have greater difficulty in moving. The quantity and condition of the spermatozoa are also diminished.
Regarding cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, amphetamines and other drugs, one of the most worrying problems is that in addition to causing or aggravating sexual dysfunction in males, by worsening their general state of health, they can damage the DNA or genetic material in the gametes (ova and spermatozoa).
In general, it is best to avoid the consumption of alcohol or any type of drugs while you are trying to conceive and during pregnancy.