How soon after quitting smoking can I try to get pregnant?

Varvara February 02 2022

Smoking and infertility

Cigarette smoking is a known cause of infertility in men and women. Women who smoke have an increased risk for ovulatory disorders, including luteal phase deficiency, anovulation, and dysfunctional uterine bleeding. Smoking also increases the risk for ectopic pregnancies, placenta previa, abruptio placentae, preterm delivery, stillbirths, spontaneous abortions (miscarriages), low birth weight infants, fetal growth restriction, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), cervical cancer, uterine fibroid tumors, infertility due to fallopian tube blockage or obstruction caused by pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), chronic ovarian failure, decreased ovarian reserve before age 38 years resulting in menopause at younger ages, and premature menopause.

Diagnosis of infertility is easier when women stop smoking before conception because exposure to tobacco products can affect the quality of cervical mucus. Smoking also increases the risk for ectopic pregnancies, placenta previa, abruptio placentae, preterm delivery, stillbirths, spontaneous abortions (miscarriages), low birth weight infants, fetal growth restriction, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), cervical cancer, uterine fibroid tumors, infertility due to fallopian tube blockage or obstruction caused by pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), chronic ovarian failure, decreased ovarian reserve before age 38 years resulting in menopause at younger ages, and premature menopause.

Patients should be advised to stop smoking before they attempt pregnancy because the harmful effects of smoking on fertility are reduced when women quit prior to conception.

Cigarette smoking also increases the risk for ectopic pregnancies, placenta previa, abruptio placentae, preterm delivery, stillbirths, spontaneous abortions (miscarriages), low birth weight infants, fetal growth restriction, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), cervical cancer, uterine fibroid tumors, infertility due to fallopian tube blockage or obstruction caused by pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), chronic ovarian failure, decreased ovarian reserve before age 38 years resulting in menopause at younger ages, and premature menopause.

Patients should be advised to stop smoking before they attempt pregnancy because the harmful effects of smoking on fertility are reduced when women quit prior to conception.

Can I improve my chances of getting pregnant if I stop smoking?

Stop smoking and you will improve your chances of getting pregnant. The body needs at least two months to recover from cigarette smoke damage, so it is best to stop smoking before trying to conceive. A woman's reproductive organs are more sensitive at certain times during the menstrual cycle, so stopping smoking can have a more beneficial effect if attempted around this time.

Stop smoking and you will improve your chances of getting pregnant. The body needs at least two months to recover from cigarette smoke damage, so it is best to stop smoking before trying to conceive. A woman's reproductive organs are more sensitive at certain times during the menstrual cycle, so stopping smoking can have a more beneficial effect if attempted around this time.

When should I quit?

Cessation of smoking is recommended for all women who are trying to become pregnant. Cessation of smoking before conception offers the best chance to reduce the impact on fertility. Fertility begins to decline in women as early as at age 27 years, with a more rapid decline after age 35 years.

Cessation of smoking is recommended for all women who are trying to become pregnant. Cessation of smoking before conception offers the best chance to reduce the impact on fertility. Fertility begins to decline in women as early as at age 27 years, with a more rapid decline after age 35 years.

Pregnancy can be achieved faster if you stop smoking before your first attempt at conceiving. Stopping smoking immediately after out that you are pregnant does not reduce the risk of miscarriage, but it is still good for you and your baby.

Pregnancy can be achieved faster if you stop smoking before your first attempt at conceiving. Stopping smoking immediately after out that you are pregnant does not reduce the risk of miscarriage, but it is still good for you and your baby.

Tips to stop smoking before and during pregnancy

Smoking cessation strategies for pregnant women have been reviewed. Brief smoking cessation intervention has been shown to be effective. Behavioral support combined with medications has also been found to be successful in promoting abstinence from tobacco during pregnancy, including nicotine replacement therapy, bupropion sustained release, and varenicline.

Tips for quitting smoking include:

  • Use behavioral support programs that include a strong social component.
  • Make a plan to quit and prepare for the withdrawal symptoms.
  • Identify triggers that cause you to smoke and avoid them. For example, if you always smoke while talking on the phone, change your habit of using the telephone when trying to quit. If you are used to smoking after a meal at night, smoke instead only when you are hungry during the day.
  • Keep your hands and mouth occupied with other objects, such as toothpicks or straws.
  • Try nicotine replacement therapy in the form of lozenges, gum, nasal spray, inhaler, or patches in combination with behavioral support programs.
  • Talk to your doctor about medications that help with withdrawal symptoms if needed. The patient should work closely with her health care provider when taking these types of medication to quit smoking.

However, it is important for women who have stopped smoking to wait 2–3 weeks before attempting conception so they can improve their chances for pregnancy success . It may take some time before improvement of cervical mucus quality occurs after quitting smoking.

Health care providers should encourage all women who wish to become pregnant to stop smoking and help them select a cessation strategy that is right for them.

The US Public Health Service Clinical Practice Guideline describes many effective treatments for smoking cessation. These include the medications bupropion, nicotine replacement therapy, nortriptyline, and varenicline.

How much does smoking impact men’s fertility??

A man’s fertility can be negatively impacted by smoking as well. Smoking leads to erectile dysfunction (ED) and low sperm motility. It is also associated with a lower chance of conceiving in IVF cycles. While infertility affects about 15% of American couples, many people may attribute the problem to stress or not trying hard enough to conceive rather than tobacco use.

Furthermore, women who smoke often have irregular periods and even stop menstruating altogether. This creates additional challenges for them to become pregnant.

However, stopping smoking has been found to decrease ED and increase sperm quality shortly after quitting! Thus, if both partners are smokers it is best that they quit smoking before attempting conception. 

Patients should be advised to stop smoking before they attempt pregnancy because the harmful effects of smoking on fertility are reduced when women quit prior to conception.

What about the impact of secondhand smoke?

The best way to prevent damage to fertility due to secondhand smoke is not to be exposed in the first place. Women who are around secondhand smoke during pregnancy have a higher risk for prematurity and smoking cessation may help prevent these negative effects. If there is someone else in the household who smokes, it would be beneficial for women trying to conceive to move into another area of the house while she is trying to get pregnant.

How soon can I try?

While many studies have looked at the effect of quitting smoking prior or during pregnancy, none have examined how much time should pass before one can try reconnecting with their partner. Besides waiting for your menstrual cycle (2 weeks) and recovering fertility (3 months), there are no other guidelines for healthy couples to follow when trying to conceive after smoking cessation. 

Of course, if you want to increase your chance of pregnancy success it would be best that both partners are smoke-free before investment time is put into unprotected intercourse.

The best thing one can do is talk to their health care provider who can provide information and advice about quitting smoking and getting started on a preconception plan with the couple.

What are the biggest challenges involved with quitting smoking while coping with infertility?

The biggest challenge with quitting smoking while coping with infertility is knowing how to quit smoking without jeopardizing a chance of pregnancy. It is important that the couple discusses this issue together and come up with a plan that works for both partners.

Recommendations for discussion include setting a date to begin planning once the woman gets her period, waiting at least 2 weeks after getting your period before trying conception, and talking to your health care provider about methods you could use to decrease withdrawal symptoms during this time.

Another major issue couples run into when quitting smoking together includes what happens if one person quits but the other doesn't? While it appears as though women who quit smoking have better fertility than those who continue, many studies fail to control for the partner's smoking habits.

This may be problematic because the male partner's smoking has been found to have a negative impact on sperm counts, motility, and morphology. Thus, if one person quits it is best that the other stops at the same time to maximize reproductive success.

When it comes to affecting your fertility, does it matter how many cigarettes you smoke?

In terms of how many cigarettes you smoke, it appears that the more a person smokes the greater impact on fertility. Studies have found that women who smoke at least 10 cigarettes a day take longer to conceive and are less fertile compared to nonsmokers. Pregnancy rates in these women were also lower compared to those who smoked fewer than 10 cigarettes per day.

One possible reason for this association is that smoking increases cortisol levels which can interfere with reproductive hormones. In addition, people who smoke often have irregular menstrual cycles making it even harder to get pregnant.

It also appears that men who smoke more than 15 cigarettes a day may decrease their chances of conceiving by increasing the time required from penetration untilulation. Taken together, these findings highlight the importance of smoking cessation even among those who are already infertile.

Further, studies have failed to show that smoking affects the percentage of sperm with coiled tails (hyperactivation) or that smoking has an impact on key proteins in semen (such as proteasome-20S). Thus, while some studies indicate that cigarette smoke decreases fertility, others suggest it doesn't affect reproductive performance.

Can I cut down instead of stopping altogether?

Cutting down on the number of cigarettes you smoke is NOT an effective way to reduce your health risks. Further, this approach does not adequately decrease withdrawal symptoms which may lead women to resume smoking.

It is recommended that couples agree on a specific date together when they will both attempt to quit smoking at the same time (e.g., 2 weeks after getting your period). This deal ensures maximum success for both partners.

Another option would be to set a goal for yourself (stopping by date X) and not allowing yourself another cigarette until that day arrives. If one or two slip-ups occur then continue with your planned quitting method (deal or stop date).

Can I use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to quit?

Research suggests that women who use NRT have similar fertility as those who don't smoke. It seems to be a safe and effective way to quit smoking, especially if you are already using it as a contraceptive method.

There are few studies that show how NRT affects fertility, but some experts suggest that this therapy does not seem to interfere with embryo development or implantation.

What about other types of nicotine?

Nicotine gum, nicotine patches, nicotine lozenges, etc., appear to decrease sperm motility but do not affect semen quality or testosterone levels in men. Thus, these products may help fertilization rates while waiting for the male partner's sperm parameters to normalize.

Take home points:

  • Women who smoke more than 10 cigarettes a day are less fertile than women who do not smoke.
  • Men who smoke more than 15 cigarettes per day may increase the time required to conceive compared to nonsmokers.
  • Quitting smoking is supportive for both male and female fertility, so it is best that you or your partner(s) quit smoking altogether at the same time.
  • The use of NRT does not seem to affect sperm parameters so it may be useful in helping couples achieve pregnancy while waiting for sperm quality to normalize. Further research needs to be conducted with regards to its use among infertility patients versus those trying to become pregnant naturally.