Smoking and Fertility

16 May 2008

Both active and passive smoking have been shown to significantly increase female and male infertility, as well as the incidence of early spontaneous abortion, preterm labour, ectopic pregnancy, multiple pregnancy, poor embryo development following in-vitro fertilisation treatment, delivery of low birth weight infants at added risk of neonatal morbidity and mortality, and early menopause. New research has now thrown light on the mechanism by which smoking affects infertility. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), released in tobacco smoke as well as the burning of fossil fuels, have been shown to attach to and kill eggs in mice. The research also indicates that long-term egg reserves - those due to be released from the ovary in several years" time - are the most vulnerable which indicates that the effects of exposure could therefore take years time to appear, as well as explaining the early menopause (Nature Genetics on-line, vol. 28 no. 4, 355-360).