If you and your partner are trying to conceive, there are lots of things to help your chances. If you're a cigarette smoker, quitting the habit is one of them. Here's what you need to know about smoking and male fertility.
1. Sperm health
Cigarette smoking reduces sperm quality, giving you a lower sperm count, less semen, and poorer sperm movement. The more cigarettes you smoke, the worse your sperm quality is, but even 'light' smokers (less than 10 cigarettes a day) have reduced sperm quality. Smoking can cause DNA damage in sperm, which is linked to an increased risk of miscarriage.
2. Erectile dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction does not cause infertility, but it can make it harder for you to conceive. And the more you smoke, the higher your risk of erectile dysfunction. To get an erection strong enough for sexual activity, extra blood needs to flow into the penis. Smoking cigarettes damages your blood vessels, which affects blood flow everywhere in the body, including your genitals.
3. Second-hand smoke
Second-hand smoke affects your partner's fertility — women who are exposed to other people's smoke take longer to get pregnant, compared to non-smokers. In women undergoing IVF treatment, exposure to second-hand smoke may also lead to a reduced chance of successful implantation. Second-hand smoke can also increase the risk of your child being born early and having birth defects.
Other ways smoking affects your family
Fathers who smoke heavily at the time of conception significantly increase their child's risk of developing childhood leukaemia.
Continuing to smoke around your kids and exposing them to second-hand smoke increases their risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), asthma, acute chest infections, middle ear disease, conduct problems and learning difficulties.
When do you need to quit smoking?
Anyone who smokes should stop as soon as possible to enjoy the range of benefits that come with quitting — within two to 12 weeks, your lungs work better, and within one year, your risk of coronary heart disease is half of a smoker's. However, if your focus is on improving fertility and protecting the health of your future family, quit at least three months before trying for a baby because this is around how long it takes to make new sperm.
If you need help quitting, book an appointment with your doctor or check out quit.org.au.