Effect of Smoking on Fertility and Pregnancy

One of the most important steps to take when you’re trying to get pregnant, and when you become pregnant, is to quit smoking. For many this is easier said than done, and can be very trying as it can be a lifelong habit that isn’t easy to drop.

Smoking in general

Smoking has long since been established as a practice that can have very severe health consequences. Cigarette smoke is full of toxic chemicals that damage your lungs, throat, blood vessels, amongst many other parts of your body. There are over 400 toxic chemicals within cigarettes, and when you smoke you and the people around you are all exposed to them.

The most well-known effect of smoking is probably lung cancer, a condition which can be fatal if severe enough. Smoking can also cause a number of other cancers, mouth and throat cancers being very common side effects of the toxins in cigarettes. The toxin that is most directly responsible for cancer is called tar, which accumulates in the lungs and airways over time, damaging them and making it more likely for you to develop cancer. Cigarettes also contain addictive nicotine and a substance called carbon monoxide which prevents much needed oxygen from supplying the cells of your body.

Smoking and its effects on fertility

As discussed above, smoking introduces a host of different toxic chemicals into your body. These work to damage many parts of your body, including the bits responsible for reproduction.  Smoking can damage women’s ovaries and it is thought that smoking can actually reduce the likelihood of conception and pregnancy by as much as 40%. Male smoking can lead to impotence as a healthy erection relies on healthy blood flow, and smoking damages blood vessels thereby rendering many men impotent. The toxins in smoke directly affect the production of sperm, both in terms of the number and the quality produced.

Smoking can also increase the risk of cervical cancer in women, which is often difficult to detect meaning that in many cases the only treatment option is the surgical removal of the uterus and even the ovaries, both organs vital to fertility and absolutely essential to good reproductive health.

Why is smoking bad for pregnant women and their babies?

You might be wondering what any of this has to do with your baby and pregnancy, well the answer is a simple one: because of the placenta. The placenta is an organ which supports your baby, providing it with food and oxygen from your body to fuel growth. Unfortunately the placenta is also a means by which the toxic compounds in cigarette smoke can be exposed to your growing baby. This means that all the negative effects of smoking are inflicted on your child, with potentially dire consequences. Carbon monoxide from smoking limits the amount of oxygen making its way to the baby, which causes all kinds of damage and can impair growth. This is only one example from a long list of chemicals that smoking introduces to your baby, and highlights the importance of quitting smoking for you and your child.

Fathers and smoking

When it comes to smoking and pregnancy, the buck doesn’t stop with Mum as it is also up to Dad to stop smoking as well. Cigarette smoke doesn’t only affect you and your body; its effects extend to those around you through second hand smoke that your pregnant partner can inhale and pass on to your child.

Quitting smoking

Getting pregnant can be a fantastic opportunity to quit smoking, and there is plenty of support available out there from the NHS and other bodies to get you through it, as well as the added motivation of wanting a healthy child. Quitting smoking has many far reaching consequences for your health, and so doing so can only mean good things for you and your family.

Motivational messages, nicotine patches and gum, group sessions, and counselling are all examples of the many options you have access to if you are looking to quit smoking. Local NHS Stop Smoking Services are available across the country, and all provide you with a chance to make a huge lifestyle chance for you, your partner, and your child.

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