By Jennifer Smith
It seems every day there is a new report revealing further reasons that smoking is damaging to your health. Many of us know that when we inhale the combination of addictive toxins and lethal smoke, our throats, mouth and lungs are at an increased risk of developing cancer and other diseases. But have you ever considered what it’s doing to your fertility?
Naturally you would think that when it comes to sperm production, only men would need to worry about it. However, new evidence shows that pregnant mothers who smoke can be affecting their unborn son’s fertility as well.
Two independent studies, researching both the effects on men and pregnant women, were published in the September 8th online issue of Human Reproduction.
Smoking and the Effect on Men
Dr. Mohamed E. Hammadeh, head of the assisted reproductive laboratory in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of the Saarland in Saar, Germany, along with his colleagues took a closer look at the impacts of smoking on fertility. Men who smoke, the findings suggest, experience a drop in certain levels of protein, protamine, which are necessary for sperm production and development. There are even actual DNA changes in the sperm of smokers as well.
The study consisted of 53 heavy smokers and 63 non-smokers. Heavy smokers, in this case, were defined as those who smoked more than 20 cigarettes in a day. Sperm samples were examined from both groups of men after they had abstained from sexual contact for three to four days. From these samples, the levels of two types of protein, protamine, were examined. In smokers, the level of one form of protamine was 14% lower than their non-smoking peers. For years researchers have been citing smoking as a cause of fertility problems, but this new research marks the first concrete evidence of smoking’s effects on protamine and the DNA make up. The study further found that the damage to the DNA is due to “oxidative stress,” yet another hazardous effect of smoking.
Smoking and the Effect on Pregnant Women Bearing Male Children
The second study was lead by Dr. Claus Yding Andersen, a professor of human reproductive physiology at the University Hospital of Copenhagen in Denmark. The study focused primarily on the direct impact of smoking on the fetus throughout the first trimester.
The researchers studied the tissue from the testes of 24 male embryos aborted between 37 – 68 days of conception. The number of “germ cells” were studied and concluded that of the embryos from women who were smokers, the levels were 55% lower. Germ cells are those that turn into either sperm in men or eggs in women. The other cells that go on to form important tissues in the fetus were also 37% lower in those obtained from a smoking mother.
It is the hope of many researchers and doctors alike, that the more we find out about the dangers of smoking, the more likely we will see higher numbers of those who quit the habit for good. These two studies show that if you plan on having a child, whether you are a man or a woman, forgoing cigarettes altogether is the best chance to conceive a healthy baby.