Despite the adverse effects that smoking has on our bodies, it can be a difficult habit to drop. Smoking leads to diseases and disabilities, impacting almost every organ in the body and damaging the body’s ability to recover and heal.
And even though smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the world, VeryWell Mind states that smokers around the world number 1.3 billion people.
For women, smoking can be exponentially dangerous because of the harm that it causes to reproductive health.
A woman’s smoking habits, as well as the smoking habits of their partners, can seriously harm fertility, pregnancy, and the health of their baby once it’s born.
However, the effects of smoking can still be mitigated for women who are intending to become pregnant.
Here’s what you need to know about how smoking affects pregnancy, and what you can do to quit smoking.
The Effects of Smoking on Fertility and Pregnancy
Smoking can complicate all aspects of the reproductive process. For women, smoking can cause damage to the eggs and ovaries, as well as increases the chances of ectopic (tubal) pregnancy.
It also damages the lining of the womb. Our article ‘Does Your Lifestyle Need to Change When Starting a Family?’ also points out that smoking carries cotinine and cadmium which reduce the quality of egg cells, as well as sperm cells.
Even if a woman is not smoking herself, the smoking habits of their partners can also affect their reproductive health. Secondhand smoke, or passive smoking, is associated with an increased risk of infertility and early menopause.
Smoking also reduces sperm count and quality among men. Additionally, as social support is an important aspect of quitting, a smoking partner can affect your success in quitting smoking if your partner continues to smoke around you.
For women who are already pregnant, smoking can have serious consequences as it affects fetal development.
Smoking during pregnancy increases the likelihood of preterm delivery, which heightens breathing, feeding, and health problems. Other risks include miscarriage, stillbirth, or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Steps You Can Take To Quit Smoking
Stopping smoking before getting pregnant can lower the risks of complications you could encounter during pregnancy. However, when it comes to smoking cessation, Insider points out that unpleasant withdrawal symptoms and cravings may kick in once you stop smoking.
Nicotine alternatives can help gradually lower your dependence on clean and therapeutic nicotine that doesn’t contain harmful chemicals in tobacco.
There are a wide variety of options for this, so it would be easy to find one that suits you.
For instance, nicotine pouches, an alternative that goes under your lip, come in varying nicotine doses. The mixpacks and trial packs listed on Prilla are ideal for those who have never tried to quit before, as they contain packages that combine flavours and strengths that can accommodate varying preferences.
You can decrease the strength and lower your intake slowly. Meanwhile, nicotine patches that go on your skin come in 3-step packs that allow people to gradually reduce nicotine doses. Nicorette's patches for nicotine replacement therapy are some examples of this. Nicorette even offers programs that help people who genuinely want to transition away from cigarettes.
However, while nicotine replacement therapy has been known to result in varying degrees of success for individuals, it is still best done combined with behavioural support.
A study on behavioural support from Cochrane found that individuals who received social support in any capacity did significantly better in their recovery than those who did not have the same benefit.
Other studies have agreed that smokers who seek social support and behavioural interventions reflect serious intent to quit, and have higher chances of success.
Reproductive health for women can be complex, but quitting smoking can be one of the first steps you take to ensure your well-being and that of your family.
While habitual smoking can have adverse effects on fertility and pregnancy, it’s never too late to devote yourself to smoking cessation and secure the future of your health and that of your unborn child.