Smoking and Drinking Can Harm Male Fertility: Tips to Improve Sperm Quality

Smoking and Drinking Can Harm Male Fertility: Tips to Improve Sperm Quality

Health experts reveal the impact of smoking and drinking on male fertility, when should one stop smoking in order to conceive and tips to improve sperm quality

According to health experts, smoking is harmful for both men and women who are trying to conceive and can cause infertility as cigarette smoking can cause reduced semen volume, decreased sperm count and also reduces the percentage of motile sperms. Hence, there should be a balance between oxidative and non oxidative levels in the body.

In an interview, Dr Deepthi Bawa, Consultant in Reproductive Medicine and IVF at SPARSH Hospital, explained, “Smoking results in more oxidative stress to the body therefore affecting every cell in the body. It can lead to fertility issues, abnormal DNA levels in sperms and abnormal chromosomes. There are multiple levels where smoking can affect, including passive smoking. Smoking should strictly be prohibited while planning a pregnancy. Even during an IVF procedure, the chances of pregnancy can decrease due to multiple level DNA damage in sperms.”

She elaborated, “Cigarettes contain cadmium and nicotine, this itself can reduce the blood supply to the reproductive organs resulting in decreased implantation rates. Reproductive organs are very sensitive, when they are affected it will initially bring down the fertility rate, when such couples conceive it can lead to miscarriages and later on cause low birth babies. There are chances of tubal damages which can affect the tubal cilia where the movements are reduced and leads to tubal pregnancies as well.”

Earlier studies stated that smoking 20 cigarettes a day can result in a 20% reduction in the sperm concentration but later on it was found that smoking even less than 10 cigarettes a day can result in significant reduction in reproduction and even during IVF, it is important to reduce or stop smoking before the procedure. Dr Akshaya S, Infertility Specialist at Altius Hospital, echoed, “There is a connection between smoking, alcohol and fertility. Men who smoke have decreased sperm motility and abnormal shaped sperms and increased DNA fragmentation index. Cigarettes have high levels of cadmium and lead which leads to reduced fertility in males. Alcohol too has detrimental effects on the sperm volume and morphology. These effects are more prominent in men who daily consume alcohol than that of men who occasionally consume alcohol.”

When should one stop smoking in order to conceive?

Dr Deepthi Bawa answered, “This depends on the genetic makeup of an individual. Sperms are produced every 3 months, in chronic smokers it might take a longer period of time. In general, an active smoker must quit during the first three months or even earlier if they are trying to conceive.”

How long after you relinquish smoking will your sperm quality improve?

Dr Akshaya S revealed, “Sperm development usually takes 3 months which implies that smoking may not affect the development of the sperm. Smoking may affect the early stage of spermatogenesis. Hence, the sperm’s semen parameters seem to improve after 3 months and significant improvement seen after 6 to 12 months.”

How much is too much? Does lifestyle play a role in male fertility?

According to Dr Akshaya S, any amount of cigarette smoking is bad for sperm production and the alcohol consumption should not exceed 14 units per week. He said, “Lifestyle changes like, daily exercise and weight reduction helps in sperm production. Additionally, consuming a lot of walnuts, carrots, spinach juice, beetroot juice and apple juice helps in sperm production.”

What are some common medical conditions associated with Male infertility?

Dr Akshaya S highlighted, “Medical conditions like diabetes, obesity, renal disorders and genetic problems like klinefelter syndrome, noonan syndrome and cystic fibrosis can cause infertility in males.”

Dr Deepthi Bawa added, “Lower sperm count followed with the volume of the sperm becoming lesser and then resulting in motility issues. Motility is directly affected by nicotine. Counts can vary across individuals but once the motility starts coming down, it leads to infertility issues and DNA level damages which affect the sperms on a deeper level. Even during an IVF procedure, the chances of a successful pregnancy becomes lesser in such patients. They can be diagnosed with sexual dysfunction such as erectile dysfunction.”

Tips to follow:

Dr Deepthi Bawa suggested –

  • If couples are very serious about conceiving a normal healthy baby then they have to quit smoking for a minimum of 3-6 months.
  • Take supplements like vitamins and antioxidants.
  • Follow a healthy lifestyle which consists of a good amount of exercise. Exercising can help in the reversal of damage that has taken place for years. Especially in people who have been smoking for 10-15 years.
  • Follow a good and a balanced diet.

Dr Akshaya S echoed, “It is always advised to refrain from smoking and alcohol. A good diet and regular exercise can help maintain a good fertility rate. Additionally, meeting a fertility specialist in case of low sperm count and motility for surgical retrieval of sperm and IVF is the recommended option.”

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