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Are you hoping to get pregnant soon, and wondering how smoking affects your fertility or what it can do to a fetus? Or are you already pregnant and quitting smoking?

Smoking reduces your chances of conceiving and poses many risks during pregnancy. Find out what they are, and what you can do to stop. 

Trying to conceive the effects of smoking on fertility

Smoking cigarettes is associated with many potential problems during pregnancy. Most women, knowing this, do quit smoking before trying to conceive. Did you know that research also shows that around 13 percent of all cases of female subfertility are causes by smoking as well? Women who smoke have a lower chance of getting pregnant each month, and this is especially likely to affect you if you smoke more than 10 cigarettes per day. A British Medical Association study from 2004 shows that smoking reduces the chances of getting pregnant by 40 percent every menstrual cycle, while 5,000 miscarriages in Britain are causes by smoking each year. Smoking affects male fertility (sperm count and sperm health, specifically) in much the same way. In addition, men who smoke while trying to get their partner pregnant probably also expose her to second-hand smoke, which is very similar to her smoking the cigarette herself. Couples in which one or both halves are smokers should quit before trying to conceive, both for their baby's health when they do conceive, and to make sure their fertility is optimal.

Risks of smoking during pregnancy

Smoking during pregnancy carries many risks:

  • Ectopic pregnancy.
  • An increased risk of miscarriage, because of damages eggs, a damaged fetus, or even changes to the uterine lining that stops an embryo from implanting properly.
  • Placental problems including placenta previa where the placenta covers the cervix, and placental abruption where the placenta detaches from the uterine wall before the baby's birth partially or completely. The latter can easily be fatal for the fetus.
  • Stillbirth.
  • It's fairly well known that smoking ups the risks of a low birth weight baby, but babies of smokers are also more likely to be born prematurely.
  • The risk of birth defects like a cleft palate go up in babies whose mothers smoke cigarettes.
  • Increased risks of developing lung problems for your baby.

That is one long list, isn't it? Smoking is very addictive, and quitting can be a real challenge (I've been there!). Your baby's health is the best reason to quit smoking. Although the risk of complications with pregnancy or the baby go up with each cigarette smoked, "just one" isn't safe either.

New research shows that embryos of smoking moms grow more slowly

French researchers who took time-lapse photographs of developing embryos in an IVF clinic found that embryos of smokers actually develop more slowly, during that first crucial stage after fertilization. The research team watched 868 embryos develop from fertilization. Among those were 139 embryos from smokers. In many hospitals, couples in which at least one partner smokes are told to quit smoking before they're even given the opportunity to undergo IVF treatment. This study, published in July 2o12, shows why embryos of non-smokers take 49 hours to reach the five-cell stage of development, and 58 hours to get tho the eight-cell stages. In smokers, that takes significantly longer at 50 hours for the five-cell stages and 62 hours for the eight-cell stage. The lead researcher, from Nantes University Hospital, summed the moral of the findings up nicely: "You want a baby, quit smoking".

Help with quitting smoking

Are you considering getting pregnant, already trying to conceive, or even pregnant and also smoking? Wanting a baby or already expecting may be the best reason on earth to wave goodbye to your horrible nicotine addiction, everyone knows that smoking can still be terribly hard. I gave up smoking six months back, and I can tell you that the first week was rather difficult. I went it alone, and just stopped one day. Drinking lots of water, every time I wanted to light up, was my main weapon.

Some of my smoking was for stress-relief, and I replaced those cigarettes with ab crunches. Half a year later, I feel great. You can do it too, despite the initial difficulties! Nicotine replacement therapy is not recommended for women who are trying to conceive or pregnant, but your family doctor may still be able to help you give up in some way. Stop smoking support groups may be one way to get over your initial withdrawal period, so you can stay cigarette-free forever! It will get easier, I promise. You are doing your health, and the health of your whole family, a great favor by saying no to cigarettes!

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