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How Does Smoking Impact Ovulation? Expert Explains

Smoking does have a negative impact on ovulation.
Published -22 May 2022, 16:00 ISTUpdated -22 May 2022, 13:12 IST
  • Bhavishya Bir
  • Editorial
  • Published -22 May 2022, 16:00 ISTUpdated -22 May 2022, 13:12 IST
smoking affects women

Verified By Dr Astha Jain Mathur, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospitals, Mechanic Nagar, Indore: The common hazards of smoking like cancer, lung issues etc are known to all, but what comes as a surprise to many women is its impact on their ovulation and fertility. Well, the fact is that the toxins present in cigarettes affect not only your lungs but also cause reproductive problems for women of childbearing age. They are completely caught off guard when smoking messes up their cycles. Unfortunately, even if they know the wide variety of reproductive health problems caused by smoking, many fail to quit it, until and unless the pregnancy is confirmed. They take the plunge of quitting smoking only to protect their baby, but they fail to understand that the more they smoke, the higher risk of them not being able to conceive.

What Is Ovulation?

ovulation process

Ovulation is the biological process in which the ovary releases a mature egg, which then moves to the fallopian tube and stays there until it gets fertilised by the sperm. Sperms can survive inside a woman’s reproductive tract for up to 5 days after sex. The chances of conception are the highest when the sperms are present in the fallopian tubes during ovulation.

Does Smoking Have An Impact On Ovulation?

Yes, smoking does have a negative impact on ovulation. The toxic substance in cigarettes reduce the concentrations of oestrogens and progesterone (the female hormones). This in turn leads to the reduction in number of mature eggs that can be fertilised. It can also kill the eggs present in the ovaries and reduce their overall number. And even if smoking doesn't kill the eggs, it can reduce the overall quality of eggs and cause them to grow abnormally upon fertilisation.

Moreover, there may be unwanted changes in the uterine lining, making it difficult to have an embryo's healthy implantation. It is also observed that smoking also reduces the chances of a successful in-vitro fertilisation treatment. As the quantity and quality of eggs in a woman is reduced, it becomes difficult to retrieve healthy eggs for the treatment. Also, since the uterine lining gets damaged, the healthy embryos often fail to get attached.

Smoking can also damage the genetic material in the eggs and increase the risk of birth defects and miscarriages even. Women who smoke have face multiple issues while trying to get pregnant

Why Is It Important To Quit Smoking Ahead Of Conception?

pregnany fertility issues

Why is smoking in pregnancy harmful to the woman and her baby?

Just as smoking is bad for the woman, her baby in the womb can be harmed by tobacco smoke because it reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients that pass through the placenta from her to her baby.

Smoking when the woman is pregnant increases the risk of:

  • Miscarriage
  • Ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy growing outside the womb)
  • Her baby dying in the womb (stillbirth) or shortly after birth- one third of all deaths in the womb or shortly after birth are thought to be caused by smoking
  • Baby being born with abnormalities- face defects, such as cleft lip or palate, are common because smoking affects the way your baby develops
  • Baby’s growth and health being affected- the more the woman smokes, the less healthy her baby will be, and the baby that is small due to smoking is more likely to have problems now and later in life.
  • Bleeding during the last months of pregnancy, which is known as an abruption (when the placenta comes away from the wall of the womb)- this could be life threatening for the woman and her baby
  • Premature birth when the woman has her baby before 37 weeks of pregnancy

Babies and children, whose mothers smoke during pregnancy, are also at greater risk of:

  • Sudden and unexplained death, known as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) as well as happening to new-born babies, this can also happen to infants over 12 months and the risk is greater. The woman and her partner continue to smoke after she or her is born, particularly is she share a bed with her baby.
  • Asthma, chest and ear infections and pneumonia
  • Behaviour problems such as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)
  • Performing poorly at school

Will I be asked about smoking when I am pregnant?

pregnany issues

Yes, from the first antenatal appointment, the doctor will ask the woman or any other member of the household whether they smoke. This is important so that she and her family can be given support and help to sop smoking as early as possible. She will be asked how often she smoke and how much tobacco she takes in a day. She will be given information about smoking and how passive smoking harms her and her baby.

The woman is a smoker, so what she should do?

Reducing the number of cigarettes, she smokes is a positive step, although there is no evidence that this is better for her baby. Therefore, both she and her partner will be advised to stop completely- and not just cut down. The earlier the woman stops, the greater the benefit is to her and her baby.

The woman doesn’t smoke but others around her do- is her baby still at risk?

Yes, if she is exposed to other people’s tobacco smoke. It is known as passive smoking. Babies in the womb exposed to smoke in this way have a higher-than-normal risk of:

  • Being stillborn or crying soon after birth
  • Being born early
  • Their growth and health being affected

The people who smoke should support and cooperate of smoking outside and not near her.

How can smoking impact a woman's ability to conceive?

Women who smoke do not conceive efficiently as non-smokers. Infertility rates in both male and female smokers are double the rate of infertility rate in non-smokers. The risk of fertility problems increases with the no. of cigarettes smoked daily.

How quitting smoking helps boost your ability to conceive?

Fortunately, there is good news for those women who are presently regretting all the years of smoking as they are now facing fertility problems. Fortunately, it is proven that fertility rates improve after quitting smoking. The benefits can be seen within weeks, although some may of course take some more time (up to a year). Therefor the sooner you quit, the better 

After quitting, if you get your eggs examined, your doctor will be able to tell you about the positive effects on both quantity and quality. Women who quit smoking also have better success rates in IVF treatments

The first step is to educate yourself about the ill effects of smoking. The goal is to create a safe and healthy environment for your baby to grow in. The best way of doing so is starting from day one, before the baby is even conceived.

For more such stories, stay tuned to HerZindagi!

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