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Lifestyle Factors and Fertility

by Dr. Allison Case

Patients often ask me about what they can do to increase the chance of pregnancy. Some lifestyle factors such as smoking, diet, body weight and stress are directly under your control and can have a significant impact on the chance of pregnancy. This is the first in a series of blog posts about lifestyle factors and fertility. We’ll start with smoking.

Smoking and Fertility

Smoking can cause fertility problems in both men and women. The chance of infertility is almost 2 times higher in smokers than in nonsmokers. Smoking is also associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, other pregnancy complications, as well as male sexual dysfunction. The chemicals in cigarette smoke can affect both egg and sperm quality. These harmful chemicals can also speed up the loss of a woman’s eggs, resulting in earlier menopause. Women who smoke, or whose partner smokes, will take longer to get pregnant than women who don’t smoke. Fertility treatment may not be able to overcome the effects of smoking on fertility. Pregnancy rates in IVF patients who smoke are almost 50% less than in couples who don’t smoke.

Many women who smoke plan to quit as soon as they know they are pregnant. For those couples planning to conceive, particularly if they are experiencing difficulty conceiving, stopping smoking may increase both the chance of conception and successful pregnancy. It is best to quit smoking at least 3 months before starting fertility treatment. Quitting smoking can be very difficult, but it will improve your chance of getting pregnant, either on your own or with fertility treatment. Talk to your health care provider about ways to help you quit smoking. It is the best thing you can do for your health, and the health of your baby.

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