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Smoking and fertility

I have been smoking for the past 15 years. I just got married and intend to start a family soon. Can smoking affect my sperm? Will my wife’s fertility be affected also? She is a non-smoker.

Yes. Smoking can negatively affect your fertility as well as your wife's.

Research studies have shown that smoking is associated with:

· Reduced sperm count: Sperm count refers to the number of sperm found in a measured quantity of semen.

· Decreased sperm motility: Sperm motility indicates the swimming capabilities of the sperm. If sperm cannot swim properly, fertilisation of the egg will be affected.

· Fewer normal shaped sperm: Normal shaped sperm is necessary for the conception of a healthy baby.

· Increased incidence of damage to the sperm DNA: Sperm with damaged DNA may lead to problems with fertilization, embryo development and implantation, resulting in an increased risk of miscarriage.

All these negative effects are attributed to the toxins found in cigarettes,the lower the zinc levels in the semen and the reduced production of male hormones by the testis.

Scientists have also demonstrated that the effects of smoking are proportionate to the number of cigarettes smoked. The heavier the smoker, the worse the semen quality. But if he quits smoking, chances of successful fertility treatment may improve.

A lower rate of success for IVF (in-vitro fertilization) treatment is found in couples if the male partner smokes. The miscarriage rate is higher and there are increased risks of birth defects and cancer in the offspring. Damaged sperm DNA is probably the cause.

Fertility of the wife may also decrease because of the exposure to the second-hand smoke. The quality and quantity of the eggs are affected by the toxins in the cigarette smoke. One study found that second- hand smoke reduced the number of eggs retrieved in an IVF cycle by 46 percent.

If you intend to start a family, you should stop smoking straightaway.

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