Smoking has a clear adverse impact on both fertility and pregnancy. Studies show that female smokers may have up to a 10-40% lower monthly fertility rate. It is estimated that 13% of Infertility may be caused by tobacco use. Smoking as few as 5 cigarettes per day has been associated with lower fertility rates. It has been linked to an increased risk of birth defects such as cleft lip and palate. Miscarriage, tubal pregnancies, preterm labor, low birth weight, newborn pneumonia, inability to breast feed and neonatal death are all increased in women who smoke. Distressingly studies suggest that children whose parents smoke experience lower achievement in reading and mathematics up to age 16.
Smoking lessens your chance of success when undergoing fertility treatments such as IVF. Studies show that female smokers have a 34% lower chance of success when undergoing IVF. Most significantly female lose their eggs at an earlier stage of life. Female smokers experience menopause earlier than non-smokers.
Men are not immune from a smoking related decline in fertility. Sperm analyses exhibit reductions in multiple sperm parameters including sperm count and Motility. Children of men who smoke may have an increased incidence of birth defects, childhood cancers and infertility in their sons. Smoking has been clearly shown to lead to erectile dysfunction and impotence.
The data on alcohol use presents a more complicated picture. A large Swedish study examined the effects of alcohol intake on fertility. Those who drank 4 glasses of wine (6 oz’s) per week were considered low consumers. Women drinking 4-10 glasses were labeled moderate consumers. Women drinking 10 or more glasses per week were high consumers. High consumers were found more likely to suffer fertility problems. Low consumers and those who did not drink had an intermediate chance of presenting with infertility. Fertility was actually increased among those women who were moderate drinkers (4-9 glasses/week). This data needs to be weighed against the fact that consuming more than the equivalent of 1 glass of wine per day has been suggested to be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. When attempting conception, alcohol intake should be limited to the equivalent of 1 glass of wine per day. You should not drink during pregnancy since the safe limit for pregnant women is unknown
High alcohol intake in men has similarly been shown to have a deleterious effect on sperm parameters. The same advice of limiting alcohol intake to 1-2 glasses of wine per day should also be given to men.
The data examining the effects of caffeine use on conception are limited at best. Given all the evidence to date, the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists has issued a clinical opinion that caffeine intake be limited to 250 grams per day. Women attempting conception should be counseled to not consume more than 2 cups of coffee or 4 cups of black tea per day.
Deciding to have a baby is an exciting time in life. Make sure your health habits don’t make it more difficult to get pregnant. Maintain your health for yourself as well as your baby.