Research on smoking has linked smoking tobacco to several fertility related disorders. In this article we will explore how smoking can affect sperm health and your sperm count, and how long it takes for sperm health to improve after quitting smoking.
Yes. A prominent review and meta-analysis of research on smoking has linked smoking tobacco to several fertility related disorders (1):
The latest research suggests that it takes 2-3 months for sperm health to return after quitting smoking (2). This is because while sperm are constantly produced, it takes an individual sperm cell 74 days (2-3 months) to reach full maturity.
As mentioned above, smoking tobacco can lead to DNA damage within sperm cells. New research suggests that paternal smoking before and during pregnancy can also damage fetal DNA. While there's more research to be done on this topic, the latest research indicates that paternal smoking may lead to birth defects such as congenital heart defects and anencephalus (an underdeveloped brain and incomplete skull) (3, 4).
Cigarettes contain toxic levels of cancer-causing substances known as carcinogens. Additionally, smoking tobacco creates mutagenic substances (a chemical that permanently changes genetic material such as DNA). Finally, they contain heavy metals such as chromium, lead, nickel, and cadmium - which have been shown to be responsible for smoking-related sperm damage.
Research shows that smoking can lead to DNA damage within sperm cells. Recent studies have shown evidence that men with high levels of damaged spermatic DNA will have reduced fertility and an increased chance of miscarriage.
Additionally, erectile dysfunction (ED) is exacerbated by smoking tobacco. For obvious reasons, this can make getting pregnant difficult. According to researchers at the Northwestern University Medical Schoo, men that smoke cigarettes are more than twice as likely to experience ED than men who do not smoke.
On average, spermatogenesis takes 74 days (2). In other words, the creation and development of new sperm cells generally takes a 2-3 months. Therefore, changes in your lifestyle such as quitting smoking will generally take ~3 months to impact your sperm health. After quitting smoking, you will likely want to wait at least 3 months before trying to conceive.
Sperm health is also strongly affected by nutrient imbalances. Once you've kicked the habit, look at your diet and make sure you're consuming enough copper, zinc, and other essential micronutrients.
The relationship between smoking and erectile dysfunction (ED) is well established. Smoking impacts your body's circulatory system through plaque build-up which puts a strain on your cardiovascular system. Plaque build-up can ultimately reduce your body's ability to move blood including pushing the blood to your penis needs to achieve an erection. In this manner, while smoking will not directly prevent you from ejaculating, it can weaken your erections and contribute to ED.
Men who smoke may increase the risk of congenital heart defects in their children, according to a study published by the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. This recent study echoes findings from several decades of research that all point to the same conclusion: smoking as a father-to-be can be detrimental to the fetus.
According to this study, all types of parental smoking were associated with the risk of congenital heart defects, with an increase of 74% for men smoking compared to no smoking exposure. The researchers found that the following congenital heart defects were specifically linked to smoking cigarettes:
It is undeniable that smoking is harmful for humans on many different levels. To ensure the health of your offspring, please refrain from smoking. As mentioned above, men should aim to quit smoking at least 3 months before trying to conceive.
If you are concerned about how smoking can effect your health, fertility, and erections, you should consider reducing your tobacco consumption. In addition to reducing your ability to achieve a strong and consistent erection and impacting fertility smoking contributes to heart disease and raises your risk of stoke.
Quitting smoking sucks! Please contact us if you or someone that you know needs help finding resources to help quit. We wish you the best of luck!
1. Tobacco smoking and semen quality in infertile males: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Public Health. doi: 10.1186/s12889-018-6319-3
2. Molecular Biology of Spermatogenesis: Novel Targets of Apparently Idiopathic Male Infertility. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. doi: 10.3390/ijms21051728
3. Parental smoking and the risk of congenital heart defects in offspring: An updated meta-analysis of observational studies. European Journal of Preventative Cardiology. doi: 10.1177/2047487319831367
4. A case-control study of paternal smoking and birth defects. International Journal of Epidemiology. doi: 10.1093/ije/21.2.273