Quit Smoking Before You Start Trying to Conceive

by Ann Douglas


"I'll quit smoking as soon as I get pregnant.
Smoking doesn't affect your ability to conceive."

There's no such thing as a reproductive grace period when it comes to smoking. If you're hoping to become pregnant in the near future, the time to butt out is before you start trying to conceive. Research has shown that couples are less likely to become pregnant in any given cycle if one or both partners smoke. That means more cycles of trying for couples who smoke than couples who don't. 


Cigarette smoke is bad news, whether you're female or male. Not only can it affect the health of the egg and the quality and quantity of sperm; smoking can also bring on early menopause (by a couple of years) in the female partner.The news is even worse for anyone with a history of fertility problems, which is why The American Society for Reproductive Medicine recommends in its Fact Sheet on Smoking and Infertility that both partners quit smoking if they have experienced reproductive difficulties in the past: "The best available scientific data indicates that cigarette smoking strongly contributes to infertility. Smoking cessation may improve natural fertility and success rates with infertility treatment."

Need more reasons to quit? Here's the mother (and father) load. According to preconception health specialist Arlene Cullum, MPH, Director, Women’s and Children’s Services and Ambulatory Clinics, Sutter Health, Sacramento Sierra Region, exposure to cigarette smoke increases the odds of both miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy that occurs outside the uterus—most typically inside one of the fallopian tubes); premature birth (before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy) and of giving birth to a low-birthweight baby (a baby who weighs less than 5 lbs. 8 oz or 2500 grams) or a baby who succumbs to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (the sudden and unexplained death of a baby during the first year of life). 

You have the power. "There are certain things about your body and your health you can't control, but smoking is something that is within your power to change," says Cullum. "Why not really take hold of this aspect of your pregnancy?"

Ann Douglas is the author of The Mother of All Pregnancy Books and numerous other books about pregnancy and parenting.