It is well known and publicized that smoking cigarettes during pregnancy is a terrible idea for women and their unborn babies. But what about men?
Men who smoke can have a more challenging time when their partner is trying to conceive because smoking can cause lower sperm count and erectile dysfunction.
In addition, new research has shown that men who smoke while their partner is pregnant can pass along second-hand smoke that will negatively impact their wife and unborn child. The World Health Organization estimates that 46% of men between the ages of 20 and 39 are smokers. In the United States, men smoke at a higher rate than women.
How Does Smoking and Nicotine Affect Male Fertility
A couple of different ways that smoking can affect fertility for men - particularly sperm count (the number of sperm) and sperm quality (sperm’s ability to move and fertilize eggs). In addition, smoking can lead to erectile dysfunction - making it harder to get or maintain an erection).
According to the Journal of Andrology, men are about twice as likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction if they smoke - making this a much more common problem than most people think.
All of these challenges can make it harder to conceive when you want to, and erectile dysfunction will affect your sex life regardless of whether you want to have kids in the future.
Smoking can also affect the DNA of sperm, and there is evidence that this can lead to preterm congenital disabilities or even miscarriage.
And smoking can continue to cause problems after a woman has conceived - research by the National Institutes on Health found that exposure to secondhand smoke exposure during pregnancy increased the risk of miscarriage by 11%.
Luckily, some of these challenges can be reversible if you decide to stay smoke-free before and during pregnancy. According to Dr. Sarah Vij and Dr. Cynthia Austin, both fertility specialists at the Cleveland Clinic, it takes about three months for a sperm to mature. So if you quit smoking, it will take about that long for your sperm health to be affected.
Can Nicotine Cause Birth Defects?
Smoking cigarettes during pregnancy can cause congenital disabilities whether the mother or the father is the smoker.
There is an increased risk of health problems for babies whose mothers smoke while pregnant, including low birth weight, preterm birth, and congenital disabilities -- and why many women quit smoking when they become pregnant. In addition, recent studies have shown that second-hand smoke from fathers can affect both pregnant women and their unborn children - even before a woman becomes pregnant. One study from 2019 suggests that “compared to babies whose parents didn’t smoke, babies of fathers who smoked when their mothers were pregnant had a 74% higher risk of heart defects at birth.”
“Fathers-to-be should quit smoking,” said study coauthor Dr Jiabi Qin, of Xiangya School of Public Health, Central South University, Changsha, China. “Fathers are a large source of secondhand smoke for pregnant women, which appears to be even more harmful to unborn children than women smoking themselves.
Does Nicotine Gum or Nicotine Patch Affect Sperm Count Or Quality?
Switching from cigarettes to nicotine gum or nicotine patches won’t affect your sperm quality or sperm count immediately because nicotine is a root cause of many fertility issues.
But nicotine replacement therapies are generally safer than cigarettes, and will help you cut back on smoking when taken appropriately. If you’re able to cut back on smoking and stay away from cigarettes for at least three months, your sperm quality and sperm count will improve over time, and you and your partner will have a much easier time trying to conceive.
Protect Your Partner and Baby By Cutting Back on Smoking
When you quit smoking, your health will begin to improve immediately - including your blood pressure, skin and teeth, and (most important for supporting conception) circulation and sperm count will start to go back to normal within about three months. Because of this, research has shown that it’s best to quit smoking at least three months before trying to conceive, to maximize your and your partners’ chances of a healthy pregnancy.
In addition, if you and your partner both smoke, it’s a great idea to try and quit together in advance of a healthy pregnancy. Research has shown it’s much harder to quit if your partner continues to smoke - and after all, they’re the one carrying the baby! And you can be each other’s support systems and accountability partners to stay on track and off cigarettes.
If you’re looking for a safe and effective way to cut back on smoking in advance of a planned pregnancy, various methods can help you.
Nicotine gum, patches, and lozenges can all be effective ways to quit smoking. All have protocols that, if followed correctly, will help you cut back on cigarettes by replacing them with pure nicotine. Then, these products have you gradually lower the amount of nicotine you’re consuming for several weeks, until you no longer crave it.
So if you want to be a cool dad, give them a try and let us know what you think!
Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should be construed as a substitute for, professional medical or health advice on any subject matter. Please consult your physician regarding any medical treatment decisions.