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Passive smoking causes infertility in men and women

Secondhand smoke contains all the same carcinogenic and toxic chemicals that the smoker inhales, but at even greater levels.

Passive smoking is risky! (Photo: Getty Images)

There is evidence that there is delayed conception if a woman is exposed to passive smoking at home or the workplace.

By Dr Isha Khurana

Secondhand smoking or passive smoking occurs when anyone (including the smoker) inhales tobacco smoke from the environment, as opposed to directly inhaling from a cigarette. This environmental or ‘second-hand’ smoke comprises two parts: smoke exhaled by a smoker (mainstream smoke) and smoke produced from the tip of a burning cigarette (side-stream smoke). Smokers only inhale about 15 per cent of the smoke from a cigarette. The rest enters the atmosphere.

Doctors have known for a long time that smoking is associated with infertility and early menopause. But the impact of secondhand smoke has been unclear. A new study shows that even passive smoking has detrimental effects on women’s ability to conceive. There is evidence that there is delayed conception if a woman is exposed to passive smoking at home or workplace. It affects not only the ovaries but also the endometrial lining in women thereby bringing down the fertility potential.

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In men, it causes DNA damage in sperms causing not just infertility but also bringing about epigenetic changes in embryos that are potential babies.

Secondhand smoke contains all the same carcinogenic and toxic chemicals that the smoker inhales, but at even greater levels. The toxins in second-hand smoke aren’t filtered as they are when inhaled directly from the cigarette. Also, because side-stream smoke is formed at lower temperatures, it gives off even larger amounts of some harmful substances.

Various products of tobacco smoke (benzopyrene, cadmium, and cotinine a nicotine metabolite) reach the ovarian follicle and the presence of cotinine has been associated with reduced fertilizing ability of the oocyte. Cotinine has been found in the ovarian follicles of passive smokers.

Current or former smokers were found to have a 14 per cent greater risk of infertility while passive smokers, exposed to the highest levels of fumes, were 18 per cent more likely to have trouble conceiving than non-smokers.

A woman who lives with a 20-or-more-a-day smoker has high chance of becoming pregnant lowered by 34 per cent. So, if you’re a smoker and planning to be a parent, a lifestyle change is definitely in order!

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(The writer is a gynecologist and IVF specialist at Apollo Fertility, Delhi.)

First published on: 24-07-2018 at 02:47:26 pm
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