Did you know that smoking cigarettes hurts your fertility?

You know that smoking is bad for you – causing lung cancer, heart disease, and other health risks. But did you know that smoking cigarettes hurts your fertility, too? Even women exposed to secondhand smoke can suffer health risks. It takes 30 days for the harmful substances from one cigarette to be cleared from the blood of a non-smoker. Now is a great time for you or your partner to quit smoking, especially if you’re trying to conceive.

Long-term and short-term damage: smoking and fertility

Smoking causes both long-term and short-term problems with achieving pregnancy. There is good evidence to show that smoking over a long period of time causes irreversible ovarian damage, resulting in fewer eggs as well as lower quality eggs – even after smoking has been stopped. Antimullerian hormone (AMH) levels are lower in women who smoke and the onset of menopause is about five years sooner, both evidence for a decreased ovarian reserve.

In addition, smoking creates short-term damage to egg development, and this has been scientifically proven by evaluating fluid from the developing follicles of active smokers.  Some evidence also suggests that smoking makes embryo implantation more difficult. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, female smokers need more ovarian follicle-stimulating medications during IVF and still have fewer eggs at retrieval time and have 30% lower pregnancy rates compared with IVF patients who do not smoke.

Research also shows that once pregnant, smoking is one of the single largest risk factors for serious problems during pregnancy.

Quitting smoking

All women – especially women who are thinking about getting pregnant – should stop smoking immediately and permanently. Although quitting smoking can be very difficult, studies show that the chance for success is much higher if you work with your health-care provider and/or a support group. No therapy to stop smoking will work unless the individual desires to stop. The decision to stop smoking when combined with medications such as Chantix or Zyban and nicotine replacement therapy can result in tobacco cessation in many individuals.

At Fertility Associates of Memphis, we work closely with smoking cessation programs to help our patients quit smoking for good. In 1998, Dr. Raymond Ke reported that serum cotinine, a metabolite of tobacco measured by a simple blood test, was inversely correlated with successful pregnancy rates in women undergoing IVF. His study detected the highest levels of cotinine in women with the lowest pregnancy rates.  We require that women have quit smoking before proceeding with certain therapies, such as IVF, due to the lower pregnancy rates seen in smokers.


Many couples look for ways to maximize their fertility potential when they’re having trouble getting pregnant or struggling with recurrent pregnancy loss. While maintaining a healthy body weight and healthy lifestyle is important, the single biggest lifestyle choice you can make is to stop smoking.

Please contact our Fertility Associates of Memphis office at 901-747-2229 to set up an appointment with one of our board certified physicians. We would be happy to help evaluate your fertility and explore steps you can take to maximize your chances of achieving pregnancy.

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