Written by Ben Bunting: BA(Hons), PGCert.
A healthy baby requires a healthy egg and healthy sperm.
As such, if you are trying for a baby then you are going to want to do whatever you can to increase the chances of conceiving.
Well, one of the things that can have an impact on your sperm is smoking, and we’re going to be looking at this a little more down below.
In this article we shall cover the following points:
- Is there a risk of infertility
- What happens to sperm?
- How long does it take to get healthier?
- Quitting can help
- The takeaway
Is there a Risk of Infertility?
Tobacco smoking is associated with reduced male fertility.
A study from 2019 reported that those men who smoked had a lower sperm count and more defects of the sperm itself.
Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t realize that there is actually a risk here, and therefore don’t know that by smoking they are damaging their chances of conceiving naturally.
You should also be aware that the more you smoke, the more likely you are to have infertility problems.
A 1987 study noted that smoking more than 16 cigarettes per day seemed to be the point in which there was a significant reduction of sperm volume compared to non-smoking men.
The chemicals in the cigarettes and the heavy metals within them will have a negative impact on your sperm and thus reducing your fertility.
The best thing for you to do if you want to have a baby is to stop smoking altogether, but we know that going cold turkey doesn’t work for everyone.
As such, try cutting down at first until you can manage to go completely without.
What Happens To The Sperm?
So, what do cigarettes actually do to your sperm?
They can increase inflammation within the sperm, which means that they are going to be weaker than the sperm of a male who does not smoke.
This alone can make pregnancy difficult to achieve, because we’re sure that you have heard of the term ‘strong swimmers’ which is what you need.
Cigarettes also contain toxic levels of carcinogens which are cancer causing substances.
As well as this, there are mutagenic substances, and heavy metals such as cadmium.
All of these things have been shown to cause sperm damage individually, and in cigarettes they are all combined.
This can lead to DNA damage in sperm as identified by Jenkins et al., which will make conceiving more difficult.
As we have discovered it is likely that if you smoke more, the worse it is going to be for your sperm count, the concentrations, mobility and shape.
And while it is considered that heavy smoking compared to light or social smoking is 'worse' for your health, the research shows that even light smoking carries substantial health risks.
Research feaured in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that smoking at the time of conception increases the child’s risk of childhood leukemia.
How Long Does It Take To Get Healthier?
You may be wondering that if you do quit smoking, how long is it going to take for your sperm to get healthier?
The production of sperm can typically take 74 days from start to finish.
Therefore, theoretically if you stopped smoking now, it would be prudent to think that in 74 days your ejaculate would be in a healthier state than it would be prior to when you stopped smoking.
Research that featured in the Environmental Epidemiology Journal of 2019 reported that two studies found marked improvements of the semen quality amongst men who had stopped smoking 12 months prior.
The participants of this study had not smoked for 6 months when their samples were taken.
In respect of this information, it is probably ideal that you give it about 6 months before you start trying to conceive as by this time your sperm should be in a much healthier condition than they were when you were smoking and would have passed through at least 2 sperm regeneration cycles.
What about sperm count?
Considering that smokers are associated with lower semen volume and sperm concentrations (compared to non-smokers), and based on the improvement of semen quality for those who have quit smoking, you would be forgiven to assume that sperm volume would also follow suit and improve.
However, results from a large scale study conducted in Austria would suggest that there are no real significant differences in sperm count between smokers and ex-smokers.
These results would suggest that while quitting smoking does improve sperm and overall semen health, it does not necessarily improve sperm count.
Quitting Can Help
If you and your partner are trying to get pregnant, then quitting smoking can help you achieve this goal.
As we have seen, the studies point out that semen quality can improve once you quit smoking. Furthemore, if the parents are not smoking it can help prevent childhood luekemia.
But, you have got to quit and stay smoke-free for at least 6 months and maybe even 12 months for this to have any impact so your sperm can regenerate.
If you know that completely quitting isn’t a realistic thing for you then you are at risk of having reduced quality semen, and a potential reduction in fertility.
Like we mentioned, you can reduce the number of cigarettes that you are smoking each day, until you eventually get down to 0.
We know that this can be difficult, so try just dropping one a day for a week, then drop another one and go like this until you reach the end and you are no longer smoking.
There are many health services available to support you quitting.
This might take a little while to achieve, but it may be better than trying to quit all at once and then not being able to stick to it.
However, be warned, becoming a 'light' or 'social' smoker still carries its health risks, the best way to reduce the impact of smoking, is to stop all together.
What’s The Takeaway?
The key takeaway from this piece is that if you are trying to have a baby and it isn’t happening for you, one of the things that you can try to do is quit smoking.
What we can understand from the research is that being a non-smoker is much better for your reproductive health than being a smoker.
Those who have stopped smoking will see improvements in semen quality which can improve the chances of conceiving with their partner, however, sperm count will not necesarily improve once you have quit smoking.
Quitting smoking will have positive impacts on your sperm, making them healthier and more likely to fertilize the egg.
However, this is not going to happen immediately or overnight, you may have to wait at least 75 - 90 days (the time it takes for sperm to regenerate) for positive changes to happen.
The other takeaway is that smoking while trying to conceive, and beyond this can be extremely dangerous to the baby if you do manage to get pregnant. As such, quitting smoking is the best way to avoid this potential risk.
It’s not just about you, it’s about the little life that you are trying to create.
Smoking isn’t good for either of you, so sorting this out right now is the best thing that you can do for everyone involved.
We hope that you have found this article helpful, and now have a better understanding as to some of the impacts that smoking can have on your sperm.
If you want to quit smoking, there is help available if you don’t think that you will be able to do this on your own.
The sooner you do this, the sooner you will have healthier sperm.