Smoking and Tobacco Smoke
When it comes to having a baby, there are four important things to consider: fertility, conception, fetal development and childhood development. Smoking affects all of them. Everyone knows that when a woman is pregnant she is eating for two. The fact is, she is also breathing for two. If a pregnant woman regularly breathes tobacco smoke, her own or
anyone else's, she is risking her baby's health, as well as her own. Of course, if either she or her partner were smoking before the baby was conceived, they lowered the odds of having a baby in the first place. Research has observed that smoking can lower the quality and quantity of a man's sperm. It can also lead to impotence. Women reduce their chances of getting pregnant if they smoke. It can also speed up their entry into menopause.
There is clear evidence that smoking affects fertility and the reproductive system in women. It may also affect men. Women smokers experience infertility rates approximately 34% higher than non-smokers. Although the cause of increased infertility is unclear, possibilities include:
How Smoking Increases Risk Of Infertility
- decreased egg counts due to destruction of eggs in the ovaries before the eggs reach maturity
- alterations in release of hormones, such as GnRH (gonadotropin releasing hormone) and estrogen
- decreased fallopian tube motility and tubal disease in the absence of endometriosis
- decreased ability of the embryo to implant
- decreased uterine receptivity to successful implantation
- chemical thiocyanide, found in cigarettes, has also been isolated in the cervical mucus of smokers and is believed to inhibit sperm motility.
- The association between smoking and infertility in men is still unclear, but smokers show a 13-17% reduction in sperm concentration, motility, and morphology.
- Further, smoking may alter the DNA, or genetic material, of sperm. This DNA change has the possibly of promoting cancer, birth defects, or genetic diseases in children.
- Hormone levels may also be altered in male smokers as in women but studies are limited to date.
Further, daughters of women who smoked during pregnancy also have been found to experience decreased fertility whether they have smoked or not when compared to non-smoking controls. The good news is that these effects of smoking appear reversible. Studies show that ex-smokers regain normal fertility rates.
Women smokers can and do get pregnant. However, if a woman continues to smoke during her pregnancy, or regularly breathes second-hand smoke, the risks for the unborn baby's health, development, and growth are all increased. Smokers are more likely to have a miscarriage, spontaneous abortion during the second trimester, preterm labor and delivery or stillbirth. Women who stop smoking during the first trimester have little or no greater risk of having a low birth weight infant.
As infants, children of smokers are at higher risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Long term effects on their health may include poor growth, slightly lower intellectual performance and behavioral difficulties. They are more prone to ear infections, asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory problems.
Remember, a pregnant woman is breathing for two. The toxic chemicals cigarette smoke contains, such as carbon monoxide, nicotine and cyanide, displace oxygen she and her child need for healthy development. If possible, quit smoking before a pregnancy begins. But, if that golden opportunity is missed, anytime a pregnant woman stops inhaling tobacco smoke, her baby, as well as any older children, benefit.