Everyone seems to know smoking is bad for your health. Everyone also seems to know someone who is a chain smoker but yet had no problem conceiving children. So, are cigarettes bad for sperm?
Smoking in the US is on the decline and with good reason. Substantial evidence exists that smoking increases the risk of a variety of cancers, in particular, lung and bladder cancer. Smoking can also be a co-factor in the development of heart disease and non cancerous lung diseases such as emphysema. It can decrease exercise tolerance and increase the risk of anesthesia. And yes, there is evidence of a toxic effect of cigarette smoking on sperm.
The effect of smoking can be seen on semen analysis. Various studies point to a decrease in sperm count, motility and morphology. An increased incidence of white blood cells in semen has also been reported. There is some evidence that damage to sperm DNA may be higher among smokers than their non-smoker counterparts. Smoking households may also have a higher incidence of miscarriage and low birth weight babies.
In addition to its effects on fertility, smoking can act as a co factor to high blood pressure and diabetes in worsening sexual function. Smokers have a higher risk of erectile dysfunction than their non smoker counter parts. This is likely due to its ability to potentiate vascular damage due to other causes.
So, while some men’s bodies seem able to defy the affect of smoking, on average, the use of tobacco increase risks of infertility, problems during pregnancy and sexual ability. In my practice, I engage smokers on their desire to quit and offer options to facilitate and enable them to kick an unhealthy habit.