Effects of Smoking on Sperm

Does Smoking Cause Infertility?

Both men and women require healthy reproductive systems in order to conceive. Among other factors, for men this means healthy sperm production.

Can smoking affect men's sperm? In a word - yes! Many couples don't know that even legal behaviors and moderate practices such as alcohol consumption or smoking cigarettes can affect fertility. Moreover, smoking both before and during pregnancy can harm the unborn child. If you and your partner are considering or trying to conceive, you are strongly advised to eliminate smoking.

Effects of Smoking on Sperm

Smoking has been shown to cause abnormalities in sperm production. First, smoking reduces sperm count, one of the prime contributors to male infertility. Second, smoking can harm sperm motility, or the sperm's ability to move. When sperm move slowly or do not travel in a straight line, they face difficulty entering the cervical mucous or penetrating the outer shell of an egg. As a result, sperm that move sluggishly may be incapable of fertilizing an egg.

In addition, smoking can lead ultimately to impotence! The toxic chemicals that cigarette-smoking introduce into the body damage blood vessels and therefore restrict blood flow. In terms of fertility, this can cause weak and ineffectual erections, which are dependent upon healthy flow of blood to the veins of the penis. While young smokers are unlikely to run into this problem, over time all male smokers are at risk of impotency to some degree.

Sex drive may also be reduced by smoking, as carbon monoxide, an ingredient found in cigarettes, is known to reduce a man's testosterone levels - testosterone being the male hormone that fuels sex drive.

In technical term, a couple's reproductive potential is known as "fecundability." Smoking significantly reduces fecundability.

Smoking and Extended Damage to Fertility

Studies have demonstrated that the effects of secondhand smoke are equally as damaging as firsthand smoke on fertility. Thus men who smoke near their partners are decreasing their chances of getting pregnant.

Similarly, the practice of smoking marijuana can lower sperm count and decrease amounts of seminal fluid. Men who smoke pot may also experience reduced sex drive and become addicted to marijuana.

How Much Smoking is Harmful?

Since there is no known "safe limit" for smoking before and during pregnancy, couples planning to conceive should refrain from even social or occasional smoking. In addition, babies born to parents who smoke are at risk for a number of health problems due to the toxic environment smoke produces.


The best intervention is for both would-be-parents to quit smoking. Quitting not only betters the chances of getting pregnant, but a smoke-free environment is healthier in the long run for both the parents and any future children.

Longtime smokers can still get pregnant if they quit smoking since the effects of smoking on sperm can be somewhat reduced. Given that sperm production takes approximately 90 days, or three months, if a man quits smoking three or more months before trying to conceive, the damage to his sperm could be minimized.

Besides quitting smoking, there are a number of steps men can take to elevate their sperm count. Among them are taking supplements of Vitamins C, E, and B12. In addition, men should eat healthy and exercise regularly.

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