Cigarette against a blue background to represent smoking affecting fertility

Does Smoking Affect Fertility?

Written on January 24, 2024 by Jordan Stachel, MS, RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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Many people may wonder how certain lifestyle habits, such as smoking, affect fertility status. Smoking impacts several aspects of a person’s health. Read this article for everything you need to know.

Do All Types of Smoking Affect Fertility?

Smoking of all types can have negative effects on both male and female fertility and thus affect one’s ability to conceive.[1] Whether individuals are choosing to smoke nicotine or marijuana, there have been adverse fertility effects observed due to smoking either substance.[2] The chemicals found in cigarettes, on top of the nicotine, also play a role in hindering fertility efforts, as they can speed up the rate at which eggs die off. Once an egg dies, it cannot be revived or replaced, as females are born with all the eggs they will have for their whole life. For men, smoking cigarettes can negatively affect sperm count and quality, reducing the motility levels of the sperm.[3]

Because of the damage that smoking has, research has found that both men and women who smoke negatively affect their ability to conceive. People who smoke have about twice the levels observed of infertility when compared to people who don’t smoke.[1]

Women who smoke tend to have thinner endometrial walls, which negatively affects conception efforts.[4] The endometrial walls are especially important when considering conception, as the endometrium plays a significant role in achieving and maintaining a healthy pregnancy. This has been studied in greater detail in women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF), in which the fertilization, pregnancy, and live birth rate can be well documented and observed.[4]

Does Having a History of Smoking Impact Fertility?

People may wonder if they have negatively affected their fertility levels by smoking in the past. The short answer to this is that any history of smoking can hinder fertility levels in the acute and long term.[5] Women who have a history of smoking have a lower chance of a successful pregnancy in the first year of trying to conceive when compared to women who have never smoked.

In addition, while further research is needed, if someone has a history and/or current exposure to secondhand smoke, they may also have decreased rates of fertility. Exposure to secondhand smoke in the preconception period has altered the hormone levels that affect oocyte production.[6] These hormones include cortisol, luteinizing hormone, and prolactin.

How To Boost Fertility

If you want to conceive and boost fertility chances, stopping smoking is advised.[7] Smoking is still widespread among people in the United States, and many young people smoke various types of substances. If you can stop smoking, the body begins to recuperate, and benefits can be seen within weeks to months after stopping.[7] However, it may take longer for the body to rid itself of all substances and/or damage done from smoking, so if you want to boost fertility efforts, quitting smoking as soon as possible is best.

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There are also other ways to help boost fertility efforts. For women, there are several lifestyle factors, in addition to not smoking, that can improve fertility efforts. Some of these include[8]:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight — being overweight or underweight can affect fertility outcomes
  • Maintaining good sexual health — practicing safe sex to avoid sexually transmitted infections is important to boost fertility efforts
  • Maintaining a good sleep schedule — getting sound, regular sleep helps positively affect hormone levels
  • Managing stress levels
  • Limiting the consumption of alcohol and caffeine
  • Limiting intense exercise — exercise that is too intense or too long in duration can negatively affect female fertility efforts
  • Limiting exposure to toxins

Some of the same elements also apply to optimizing male fertility. Some ways to boost male fertility include[9]:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight — being overweight can affect fertility outcomes
  • Eating a well-balanced diet — a diet rich in antioxidants can help bolster sperm health
  • Maintaining good sexual health — practicing safe sex to avoid sexually transmitted infections is important to boost fertility efforts
  • Managing stress levels
  • Regular exercise — getting regular activity can help boost levels of helpful enzymes in sperm, aiding in their protection
  • Limiting alcohol intake
  • Limiting exposure to toxins
  • Staying cool — the temperature of the scrotum can affect sperm health. Wearing loose-fitting underwear and avoiding hot environments can help with sperm quality

Support Your Fertility Health With Everlywell

At Everlywell, we combine the best in modernized, rigorous lab testing with easy-to-access, at-home medicine. We provide a range of blood tests and services, including our women’s fertility test, that you can use from the comfort of your home. Take control of your physiological health today with Everlywell.

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  1. Smoking and infertility. Last reviewed 2014. Accessed January 18, 2024.
  2. Ilnitsky S, Van Uum S. Marijuana and fertility. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2019;191(23):E638. doi:10.1503/cmaj.181577
  3. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Evaluating Infertility. Published January 2020. Updated August 2022. Accessed January 2023.
  4. Heger A, Sator M, Walch K, Pietrowski D. Smoking decreases endometrial thickness in IVF/ICSI patients. Geburtshilfe Und Frauenheilkunde. 2018;78(01):78-82. doi:10.1055/s-0043-123762
  5. Current and former smokers may have lower chance of getting pregnant, study finds | SPH. © 2024 Boston University. Published May 9, 2014. Accessed January 18, 2024.
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US). Reproductive and developmental effects from exposure to secondhand smoke. In: The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. 2006.
  7. How stopping smoking boosts your fertility naturally. Cleveland Clinic. Published April 15, 2019. Accessed January 18, 2024.
  8. Mayo Clinic Staff. Female fertility: why lifestyle choices count. Mayo Clinic. Published January 9, 2024. Accessed January 18, 2024.
  9. Mayo Clinic Staff. Healthy sperm: improving your fertility. Mayo Clinic. Published May 13, 2022. Accessed January 18, 2024.

Jordan Stachel, MS, RDN, CPT is most fulfilled when guiding others towards making stepwise, sustainable changes that add up to big results over time. Jordan works with a wide variety of individuals, ranging in age from children to the elderly, with an assortment of concerns and clinical conditions, and has written for publications such as Innerbody. She helps individuals optimize overall health and/or manage disease states using personalized medical nutrition therapy techniques.

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