Smoking can affect both male and female fertility. Women who smoke tend to have lower estrogen levels than non-smokers and this can lead to irregular ovulation. Nicotine and other cigarette toxins can reduce the chance of fertilization. Also smoking can increase your risk of cervical pre-cancer and cancer.
Male smokers often have a lower sperm count and the quality of their sperm is generally poorer which makes fertilization less likely. So, by giving up smoking you can both increase your fertility and your chances of successful conception.
Smoking during pregnancy will also put your baby at risk and can affect the mother’s health, so stopping now will benefit you and your baby.
Drinking alcohol can affect the production of healthy sperm and eggs. In men, drinking alcohol can lead to a lower sperm count with high numbers of the sperm they do produce being abnormal. Ideally, a man should stop drinking on a regular basis for at least three months before conception to allow healthy sperm to develop.
Although in women drinking rarely prevents ovulation, it can cause the pregnancy to fail and will certainly increase the risk of miscarriage. In pregnancy, alcohol can restrict fetal development and may also lead to malformation. More details relating to alcohol use in pregnancy are given in the article ‘Alcohol and Pregnancy.
Fertilization and the early development of a baby are controlled by delicately balanced processes in the body. Therefore, any additional chemicals entering your body can upset this balance. Drugs, whether legal or illegal, are potentially hazardous to fertility and the development of the unborn baby. Even caffeine, taken in excess, can affect your chances of conception. And you should always seek advice from a health professional before taking over-the-counter medications, natural remedies and supplements during conception.
For more tips along with do’s and don’ts at the pre conception stage, read our pre-pregnancy check column.