Smoking And Fertility - Destroying the Next Generation

You'd think that the years of "stop smoking" campaigns would have yielded a higher return than what we are seeing today. Thankfully, many young children understand the dangers of cigarettes and they will gladly inform any adult within hearing distance that their clothes and breath stink. However, as these little kids become adolescents and teens, many of them forget the things about smoking they learned when they were tiny, things like: smoking hurts your body, it causes cancer that can kill you, smoking hurts other people who are in the same room, and smoking can hurt a baby who is still in the mother's tummy. Although you might have heard of a healthier alternative to smoking, which is becoming a new trend now, it is important to be aware of the risks involved when one chooses to smoke.

Teen Smoking Reduces Fertility by Age 25

Almost all adult smokers started the habit as a teen, or in some cases even younger. In 2005 nearly one-quarter of all high school students reported smoking cigarettes. Around 3,000 teens new to the habit light up their first cigarette every day. The surprising fact is that these numbers have an impact on the number of men women who are infertile today and are seeking fertility help. The latest research is suggesting that for women in this decade, 25 is the new 35 in terms of fertility. Translated, that means that women who start smoking in their teens run the high risk of having fertility issues by the time they are in their mid-twenties.

Study Proves Smoking Affects Fertility in Embryos

Supporting evidence for this comes from two studies done in Europe that shed light on how smoking damages fertility. These studies throw some serious weight behind the need for both men and women to stop smoking before they attempt to conceive. One study was done on men and the other on women. The study focused on women observed the impact smoking had on the fetus during early pregnancy and discovered that when a mother smokes during the early stages of pregnancy the number of germ cells and somatic cells is dramatically reduced. Germ cells form eggs in baby girls and sperm in baby boys and somatic cells form all of the other parts of the baby. The child's fertility later in life is impacted by the number of germ cells.

The study was completed at the University Hospital of Copenhagen and was lead by Claus Yding Anderson, Professor of Human Reproductive Physiology. Professor Anderson and his team of colleagues examined the testes of 24 male embryos obtained from women who had undergone legal abortion between 37 and 68 days gestation. Blood and urine samples were obtained from the women along with history regarding their lifestyle during pregnancy, including smoking and drinking habits.

Reduction in Reproductive Cells Caused by Smoking Will Affect Fertility

When compared with the testes of embryos taken from mothers who did not smoke, the study found that the number of germ cells (cells responsible for procreation) in the testes of embryos taken from smoking mothers was reduced by 55% - more than half. Somatic cells, those that are responsible for forming the rest of the body, were reduced by 37% - more than a third. These results were added to the findings on the effect of smoking on 28 female embryos and they learned that germ cells in the ovaries and testes of embryos exposed to smoking were reduced by 41% when compared to non-smoking mothers. They found that germ cells, those responsible for procreation, were more susceptible to the damaging effects of smoking than somatic cells.

The Researcher Comments on Smoking and Fertility

Professor Andersen said: "As the germ cells in embryos eventually develop to form sperm in males and eggs in females, it is possible that the negative effect on the numbers of germ cells caused by maternal smoking during pregnancy may influence the future fertility of offspring. In addition, the reduction in the number of somatic cells also has the potential to affect future fertility, as somatic cells in the testes support the development of germ cells to form functional sperm. If the somatic cell number is reduced, fewer functional sperm will be produced. These findings may provide one potential cause of the reduced fertility observed in recent years.

He went on to comment on the fact that even though smoking has declined over the years, one in eight mothers continue to smoke and the number is even greater in women younger than age 20 at the time of delivery. "This tendency is alarming, and when you take the results from this study in combination with the other known negative effects of cigarette smoke during pregnancy, it further emphasizes that pregnant mothers should refrain from smoking."

Smoking Mothers Create Infertile Children

If the mother of an infertile man or woman was a smoker during the time of conception and pregnancy, it is possible that her habit caused the problem. For those smokers who desire to conceive and carry a baby, they could well be passing on the "legacy."

A woman's fertility is aided by healthy lifestyle habits, good diet, and exercise among other things. Smoking has been proven over and over again to be detrimental to fertility, pregnancy, and the ultimate health of a baby.

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