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Couples: Quit Smoking Before You Conceive ...

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a blog by Serena H. Chen, M.D., IRMS Reproductive Medicine at Saint Barnabas, June 3, 2011

We all know that smoking is bad for you. Smokers are at high risk for cancer, heart attack and stroke, among other things. However, when you are trying to conceive, quitting smoking is especially critical.

Many smokers say they will quit once they are pregnant. Smoking fathers say, “It’s OK, I don’t smoke around her, or the kids.” This is not good enough. You need to quit smoking before you conceive.

Toxic Cigarette Smoke

Cigarette smoke is so toxic that even second-hand smoke can adversely affect your chances of conceiving — whether you are a man or a woman.

strong>Men and women who are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke experience much higher rates of infertility than people who are not exposed. They have more miscarriages and conceive children with more birth defects. The risks are many times higher when you actually smoke a cigarette.

Even third-hand smoke is harmful. Third-hand smoke is the debris left in your clothing when you smoke a cigarette or spend time with someone who smokes. If a child is regularly exposed to third-hand smoke, he or she has a greater risk for developing asthma. So, always smoking outside does not protect your loved ones. It is better than smoking inside, but not as good as not smoking at all.

If you smoke 10 or more cigarettes a day, then you have a nicotine addiction, in addition to a bad habit.

Smoking Cessation when Trying to Get Pregnant

The most successful methods for smoking cessation address both the nicotine addiction, as well as the bad habit. Using nicotine replacement aids like nicotine gums or patches are usually OK with doctors during conception and pregnancy — you are only getting one poison instead of the hundreds found in cigarette smoke. Most obstetricians would rather have their pregnant patients on a nicotine patch or gum than smoking. Obviously, nothing at all would be ideal, but that is not always possible.

Remember that you cannot smoke and use the gum or patches at the same time; if you do, you will overdose on nicotine. Zyban or Wellbutrin, a prescription antidepressant, has also been found helpful for nicotine addiction and may be considered for pregnant women, or women trying to conceive. These drugs are is usually well-tolerated, and if you are a smoker, it is definitely worth discussing these aids with your doctor. Chantix is much newer, and most doctors do not recommend using this drug if you are trying to conceive or are pregnant, although it may be a good option for men who are trying to conceive.

Regarding the bad habit, most hospitals have a quit smoking program that will help. There are even many wonderful websites that can help. is one of the oldest quit smoking help sites and offers helpful information and an entire community of support for people struggling to quit. The Centers for Disease Control has a quit smoking section. The American Cancer Society also has a helpful guide to quitting smoking.

Below are some methods that you may find helpful to you.

  • Set a quit date.
  • Tell a friend.
  • Talk with your doctor about quit smoking programs and nicotine replacement.
  • Don’t give up — the average successful quitter has attempted and failed seven times before being successful!

Stop Smoking Now

Do not wait to quit smoking— now is the time.

Smoking destroys your eggs. Women who smoke go through menopause earlier and have much higher rates of diminished ovarian reserve. When you stop smoking, it is one very powerful step to improve your chances of conception and a healthy pregnancy.

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