A 28-year-old man recently came to see me after he and his wife had been unable to conceive for a year. She was 26 and healthy. He smoked 2 packs per day and liked to drink as well. He was about 20 lbs. overweight. I looked at his analyses. His sperm count was borderline and his motility and morphology were low (see my article “Yes, but am I fertile?” for a detailed explanation). I examined him, finding normal results from head to toe except for some wheezing. His hormone tests all came back normal. After his fertility testing was done, I told him that if he would stop smoking and drink less that his wife would probably be pregnant in the next 6 months. He asked me what he would have to do if he didn’t want to quit smoking and drinking.
If he would stop smoking and drink less, his wife would probably be pregnant in the next 6 months.
I told him that he would need to start with IUI, which is commonly referred to as artificial insemination, while his wife would need to be stimulated with hormones. I added that if it didn’t work after a number of cycles they would need to go to IVF, which is in vitro fertilization. I stressed that they were young and if possible natural conception was the way to go. First, it’s a lot more fun; you can do it from the comfort of your own home—or anywhere else as long as you don’t get caught. Second, It obviates the need for hormonal stimulation and its consequences such as multiple order births. You know…less twins and triplets. Last but not least, it’s free—as long as she isn’t charging him.
The Avon Longitudinal Study of Pregnancy and Childhood looked at pregnant British couples, questioning them about their time to conception and the factors that affected it. Hull et al., published this study more than a decade ago in Fertility and Sterility. What they found was that not only was the women’s pregnancy delayed by smoking, but also by exposure to second-hand smoke. In addition, when the men independently smoked more than 20 cigarettes a day, the chances of having a pregnancy delayed beyond 12 months increased.
Men who are alcoholics are prone to testicular atrophy, which is a shrinking of their testes. However, when Olsen et al., looked at moderate drinking in “Does Moderate Drinking Affect Fecundability? A European Multicenter Study on Infertility and Subfertility,” they found that there was no correlation between moderate alcohol consumption and delay to pregnancy.
So if You Want to Have Kids…
So what’s the take home message? There are a myriad of reasons to quit smoking and to not abuse alcohol, but if you are trying to get pregnant, consider this: if you’re going to have a kid you should get used to those things anyway because it’s not good for you, your partner or your baby. May 31st is the WHO’s World No Tobacco Day…quit then, or just quit today. Either way, your future kid will thank you.