Smoking + sperm health

How does smoking affect sperm and semen quality?

So here’s the deal. We all know smoking is bad for our health. But the toxins in cigarettes take their toll on the health of your entire body, not just your lungs and heart. This includes your reproductive system and the delicate formation of sperm and semen. 

Here’s the down low on how smoking impacts male fertility. In April of 2016, European Urology published a meta-analysis1 on the effect of smoking on semen health. The analysis included 20 studies and just over 5,000 men across Europe. The study found that smoking was associated with: 

-Decreased sperm concentration (the quantity)
-Decreases sperm motility (the way they move and their forward direction)
-Fewer healthier shaped sperm (their quality
-Increased DNA fragmentation (their genetic make-up)

Why is this important?

Beyond the fact that nicotine plays a significant role in decreasing the quality and quantity of sperm, it also lowers IVF and ICSI success rates, significantly lowering live birth rates 18% vs 32% in non-smokers). Inhalation of nicotine via passive smoking has also been shown to decrease the ability to retrieve ova during IVF. 

Scarier still, women exposed to second-hand smoke experience a significantly lower pregnancy rate than women not exposed to smoke (20% vs 48.3%). It’s been found that the damage caused by second-hand smoking on female fertility is equal to the damage caused by smoking directly! 

Reference: The effects of Cigarette Smoking on Male Fertility. By Jason R. Kovac et al. Postgrad Med. 2015 April. (Link to study) 

Improving sperm parameters 

There is still hope, if your partner is a smoker. The most important thing is to stop smoking as soon as possible to help optimise reproductive potential for both you and your partner. Studies have shown that effects of oral nicotine were improved following just 30 days of cessation, suggesting a component of reversibility to the negative impact of smoking. 

Smoking also contributes towards oxidative stress and free radicals in the body. So having an alkaline diet and supplementing with Vitamin C, Antioxidants and Zinc are all key components in restoring the body back to optimal health. 

It’s important to remember that the life cycle of sperm is 90 days so we suggest adopting this new healthy lifestyle for this period of time to optimise sperm quality and therefore increasing reproductive potential. 


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About Kimberley

Kimberley, Acupuncturist and Clinic Director at Life + Lemons, is a registered TCM (Traditional Chinese Medical) Acupuncturist, passionate about helping women reclaim their feminine edge. After graduating with a First Class Honors in York, she has undertaken specialist training in the area of pain management, natural conception, IVF support, menopause + pelvic pain (endometriosis/dysmenorrhea).