Smoking Tobacco and the Effect of Cigarette Smoking on Fertility, Infertility and IVF Success
Page author Richard Sherbahn MD
There are many known causes of infertility and some are more absolute than others. For example, if a woman has blocked fallopian tubes, or a man has a very low sperm count or low motility then we know the cause of the couples infertility problem (or at least one of the causes).
However, there are other fertility issues that are difficult to characterize as "the problem" - but we know that often they are at least factors contributing to the infertility. Cigarette smokers are known to be more likely to have have several fertility issues as compared to non-smokers.
Relationship between female tobacco smoking and fertility and infertility
- Over 20 published studies in the medical literature have detailed the adverse effects of tobacco smoking on fertility
- Tobacco smoke contains several hundred substances, many of which are toxic
- A study done in mice showed that nicotine had disruptive effects on egg maturation, ovulation rates, and fertilization rates. The study also showed more chromosomal abnormalities in the eggs exposed to nicotine.
- Ovarian reserve and egg quantity and quality are reduced in women who smoke
- Smokers have lower numbers of follicles when stimulated for in vitro fertilization, IVF
- Smokers have lower numbers of eggs retrieved with in vitro fertilization
- Smokers have lower rates of fertilization of the eggs with IVF
- Smokers have increased rates of miscarriage with in vitro fertilization pregnancies
One study showed that the chance for an IVF pregnancy was 2.7 times higher for women who have never smoked as compared to women that do (or have previously). The same study showed that if the woman smoked for over 5 years, the risk was increased to 4.8
There is also some evidence that male smoking decreases success rates with IVF. It is not known whether this effect would be caused directly by the sperm, or whether it represents a negative effect on the egg and embryo quality through passive exposure (second hand exposure).
- If you smoke - quit, and if you are having trouble getting pregnant or particularly if you are planning to go through IVF - quit even sooner.
- Fertility improves after quitting, and IVF success rates are higher in women that used to smoke (they have quit) than in women that are still smoking during IVF treatment cycles.