Smoking and Sperm Health
Cigarette smoking is one of the most important lifestyle-associated risk factors involved in human diseases. Despite worldwide anti-smoking programs, smoking is still very common. The toxins in cigarettes take their toll on the lungs but also on the health of your entire body. It’s commonly known that smoking can lead to a wide range of health problems to include cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. However, many smokers fail to recognize smoking also takes a toll on the reproductive system, negatively impacting sperm health and fertility.
Impact of Smoking Sperm and Semen Quality
A European Urology study analyzed the impact of smoking on semen health. The meta analysis included 20 studies, which included just over 5,000 men across Europe. The study determined smoking was associated with decreased sperm count, decreased sperm motility how sperm swim), and decreased sperm morphology (how sperm are shaped), and increased sperm DNA damage. Most notably, the study found the negative effect smoking was higher in moderate to heavy smokers, compared to light smokers.
- Sperm concentration: Sperm concentration, or sperm count, refers to the number of sperm found in a measured quantity of semen. A low sperm count is less than 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen or fewer than 39 million per ejaculation sample. Studies have shown a 23% decrease in sperm concentration in men who smoke. When the number of sperm in semen is low, it decreases the probability one of the sperm will fertilize the female egg.
- Sperm DNA: Several studies have determined the sperm of smokers are more likely to experience an increase in DNA fragmentation. Sperm with damaged DNA can lead to increased miscarriage rates, as well as difficulties with fertilization, embryo implantation, and embryo development.
- Sperm morphology: Sperm morphology refers to the shape of sperm. Oddly shaped sperm may have difficulty swimming to and fertilizing an egg. Male smokers have fewer healthy shaped sperm than non-smokers.
- Sperm motility: Sperm motility refers to the swimming capabilities of the sperm. If sperm are unable to swim properly, they may have difficulty reaching the egg and fertilizing it. Researchers have found that men who smoke experience a 13% – 17% decrease in sperm motility.
Impact of Smoking on Male Infertility
While smoking has proven to impact semen health, compromised sperm doesn’t always equate to infertility. Men who are on the borderline of infertility can improve their semen quality when they quit smoking. Depending on your specific fertility needs, this could be the additional help needed to push over the edge into healthy fertility ranges. When you quit smoking your sperm quality will improve. Additionally, quitting smoking has proven to improve male fertility, as well as fertility treatment success.
Does Chewing Tobacco Impact Fertility?
Although smoking is more harmful to your overall health, chewing tobacco is also detrimental to your health. Chewing tobacco increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, respiratory cancers, oral cancers. Additionally, studies have found that heavy chewing can negatively impact sperm concentration, sperm morphology, sperm motility, and viability. Whether or not it’s enough to decrease fertility remains unclear. At the end of the day, chewing tobacco impacts your overall health, which ultimately impacts your fertility.
The Importance of Sperm Testing
Male infertility can be due to a variety of factors, including abnormal sperm function (such as motility and morphology) and a low sperm count. A sperm test, or semen analysis, is recommended when a couple is experiencing difficulty getting pregnant. This non-invasive test will help to determine if a man is infertile, which is a very important piece of the puzzle when it comes to determining the root cause or conditions of a couple’s infertility.
At Legacy, our wide variety of fertility testing packages help men test their sperm within the comforts and privacy of their homes. In as little as 48 hours from receiving your sample, the Legacy Fertility Report provides clients with access to an in-depth 6-page report which analyzes the 5 key data points of male fertility: volume, count, concentration, motility, and morphology.
Contact a member of our fertility team to learn more.