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Houston Fertility Center

How Smoking Affects Male Fertility

By Sonja Kristiansen, MD on February 16, 2016

Smiling couple outsideWe have been told for decades that smoking tobacco is bad for us. Smoking leads to diseases such as cancer, emphysema, and heart disease. It makes us more vulnerable to colds and bronchitis. It curbs our ability and desire to participate in physical activities like running, hiking, or team sports. Cigarettes cause foul breath and yellow teeth, and make clothing smell unappealing. We know these negative effects of smoking, but did you know that smoking can affect your ability to have a baby? If you would like more information on the effect smoking has on male fertility, contact Houston Fertility Center and speak to a helpful member of our staff.

The Effect on Fertility

Studies show that men who smoke are twice as likely to be infertile as men who don’t smoke. Smoking leads to a low sperm count, and the sperm produced usually suffer from low motility, or movement. The sperm of smokers have a much higher probability of abnormal morphology, meaning they are abnormally shaped.

Male human sperm carries two proteins, called protamine 1 and protamine 2. A natural balance between these two proteins is required for the successful fertilization of an egg. Studies have shown that in smokers, sperm have a shortage of protamine 2, which can lead to damaged DNA. The likelihood of fertilization drops significantly, and those eggs that do become fertilized carry a greater risk of miscarriage. Men who smoke have a greater chance of producing children with low birth weight, and increase their children’s risk for developing asthma.

How Second Hand Smoke Affects Fertility

Men who smoke will greatly reduce their chances of participating in conception, but secondhand smoke can play a role in infertility as well. Regularly breathing smoke from another person’s cigarette can cause all of the same problems as actually smoking the cigarette yourself. Additionally, men who smoke in front of their partner can cause their partners to have trouble with conception. Women regularly exposed to secondhand smoke may experience a decrease in egg production that cannot be reversed. Even with IVF treatments, these women have 30 percent lower pregnancy rates than women who are not exposed to secondhand smoke.

What Happens When Smokers Quit

Men who quit smoking not only increase their chances of participating in successful conception, they also increase their chances of staying alive to see their children grow up. Studies show that the negative effects of smoking on fertility typically reverse about a year after quitting. A decrease in the female’s egg production, however, is permanent. The rate of complications experienced during pregnancy drops significantly, and continues to decrease with every passing day that tobacco smoke is not inhaled.

Need Help Quitting?

To increase your chances of a successful pregnancy, doctors advise that you stop smoking immediately. Quitting can be difficult, but working together with your doctor will increase your potential for success. Your doctor can recommend programs that will help in your endeavor, or a prescription that may curb your desire for cigarettes. You can also find nicotine replacement gums and patches that have proven successful in helping people quit. Whatever method you choose, quitting now will greatly increase your chances of having a child in the future.

Call Us for a Consultation

If you and your partner need help achieving conception, the staff at Houston Fertility Center is here to help. Call our office today to schedule a consultation.

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