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How smoking and alcohol can affect fertility

Cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol can all inhibit fertility for both femals and males for different reasons, making the road to conception a bit more difficult.

Alcohol and fertility

Research is mixed on how occasional drinking may affect female fertility: some studies have found that individuals who consume two or more alcoholic drinks a day see drops in their fertility, but there’s no evidence that a drink here and there negatively affects fertility. Everything in moderation! Light, social drinking is usually fine, although it may decrease some people’s chances of conceiving. It all depends on personal tolerance and reaction to alcohol. However, individuals who abuse alcohol are more likely to develop certain infertility conditions, such as the absence of ovulation or menstruation.

Research is also inconclusive about male fertility. Alcohol is one of many factors that can contribute to sperm count, including exercise, nutrition, sleep, and weight. Limiting alcohol intake when trying to conceive may help boost fertility, but cutting it out completely isn’t necessary either.

It is recommended that if you're actively TTC - and, as such, could presumably (and hopefully!) become pregnant at any time - that you do abstain. But if you’re a moderate drinker and you find that you’ve become pregnant, don’t worry! A few drinks in your first trimester, before you even know you’ve conceived, haven’t been shown to negatively affect your baby’s birth weight or health.

Smoking and fertility

What about smoking and female fertility? Those who smoke may be at a greater risk of experiencing ovulation problems or other general health issues that may affect fertility. Like alcohol, it’s moderation that counts: a cigarette here and there probably won’t make your fertility plunge, but several or more a day can be detrimental. 

Cigarette smoke can also adversely affect male fertility, as it may lower sperm count and make it difficult for the little fellows to make their way to a fallopian tube and fertilize an egg. 

Because smoking certainly isn't good for your health - fertility health or general health - quitting is recommended. So you may want to speak with your healthcare provider about this if you're smoking right now. And because smoking while pregnant can lead to increased risk of birth defects, low birth weight, and other complications, if you're actively TTC, quitting now while you’re trying definitely makes a lot of sense.

Read more
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  • Suzanne Tough, PhD, Karen Tofflemire, MSc, Margaret Clarke, MD, and Christine Newburn-Cook, PhD. "Do Women Change Their Drinking Behaviors While Trying to Conceive? An Opportunity for Preconception Counseling." Clinical Medicine & Research. 4(2): 97-105. Web. 6/6/2015.
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