The impact of intoxicants, such as tobacco, on both male and female health has been reported widely. Irrespective of the quantity or frequency of consumption, it can affect the lungs, heart, neck and throat and become a breeding ground for cancerous cells. Subsequently, however, more parts of the body can also begin to get impacted.
World No Tobacco Day is observed on May 31 every year, and the theme for this year – “tobacco is killing us and our planet” – highlights how it is not only deteriorating our lives but also altering our future generations. This is because tobacco consumption has a close association with infertility, said Dr Kshitiz Murdia, CEO and co-founder, Indira IVF.
“In females, final tobacco products and the chemicals contained therein can negatively influence reproductive function. This can result in an early menopause, infertility, subfertility, as well as disorders related to the menstrual cycle,” said Dr Murdia.
How does tobacco affect fertility?
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One of the ways that tobacco does this is by possibly affecting hormonal production in females by targeting glands such as hypothalamus, thyroid, pituitary, and adrenal. It’s consumption has been associated with higher levels of circulating androgens or male hormones such as testosterone in the body as well as cortisol levels of hormones such as oestrogen, progesterone, prolactin, and anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH).
Such imbalances can then further lead to conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) that is known for causing complications at the time of conceiving. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine has found that the rate of infertility among females who consume tobacco is two-times more than that in those who don’t. In females, age plays a role in determining fertility since the number of eggs available for a pregnancy is associated with it. This can be attributed to the damaging effects of certain chemicals found in cigarettes such as nicotine and carbon monoxide on the genetic material in eggs. It is known that when the genetic material in gametes is compromised, the rate for miscarriage is more, as well as the risk of children with genetic anomalies such as Down’s syndrome, Turner syndrome, and Klinefelter syndrome is increased.
Such damage to eggs speeds up the rate at which they age, leading to their accelerated loss and hence, an early menopause. It has also been found that incidences of ectopic pregnancies and a pre-term birth are more among females who consume tobacco. The impact of tobacco is not limited to negative consequences in the female’s health but also on the child they may conceive. It’s intake during pregnancy compromises the child’s growth inside the uterus by influencing their weight at the time of birth and health complications they develop later in life such as asthma, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes, said Dr Murdia.
Tips to quit smoking
It becomes imperative that females limit or discontinue using tobacco, keeping their health in mind. One can also temporarily opt for nicotine gum or patches, and prescription medicine to aid the process of quitting. This helps improve fertility parameters in females by manifold and preserve the undamaged eggs. However, in certain cases, a natural pregnancy may still be difficult to achieve. In such circumstances, assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedures such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) can provide a solution. It should be kept in mind that although ART treatment can be a helping hand, the success rate can be impacted by the damage caused by tobacco on their body and their overall health.