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Smoking and conception

Don't wait until you're pregnant to give up smoking - quitting can improve the chances of conception for women and men. Here's how it affects conception, and ways to quit.


Posted: 29 April 2010
by Monica Stylli

Smoking when trying for a baby
Smoking when trying to conceive can decrease your chances of success

If you’re thinking about getting pregnant and have been considering giving up smoking then now is the time to do it. Mary Kittle, in her book Stay Fertile Longer quotes a study that found that women who began smoking before they were 18 were three times more likely to begin menopause before 40 than non-smoking women.

Additionally, women who smoked and were having in vitro fertilisation treatment (IVF) had their chances of a successful programme cut by a third.

In men, smoking lowers the sperm count and reduces the number of 'motile' sperm - the good swimmers, to you and me.

Kicking the habit is important for both yourself and your partner as it may increase your chances of conception and of having a healthier baby. One of the key factors in an increased risks of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or 'cot death') is the mum smoking during pregnancy.

If you feel ready to stop smoking, don't worry that everyone will presume it's because you're pregnant or trying to conceive. Quitting smoking is a major national pastime and the excuse of just feeling a little fitter should fend off curious friends and family, if you don't want to share your baby plans with those around you.

Here is our list of tips to help you get started:

  • Choose a day to quit and stick to it. When the day arrives throw away all cigarettes, ashtrays and lighters in your home, car and workplace and plan a reward for yourself at the end of your first day. If both you and your partner smoke then try to make a pact to give up on the same day.
  • Try nicotine replacement therapy. This might take the form of nicotine gum or patches and should help ease the withdrawal symptoms. Your GP can provide you with advice on this along with back-up leaflets and helpline phone numbers. You could combine this therapy with joining a support group with a trained smoking counsellor where you can share problems and tips with others.
  • Keep busy. If you feel the need to smoke then try to take your mind off it by concentrating your thoughts on something else – perhaps take the dog for a walk or engage in some light exercise to divert your attention. You will probably find that the temptation will pass in a couple of minutes.
  • Change your routine. If you normally like to smoke after breakfast for example then eat somewhere new, whether it be a different café or a different room in your house. If stress triggers your need for a cigarette then try taking a relaxing bath (maybe use the spare cash to buy a particularly luxurious bath oil) or going for a walk to ease the tension. The key is to break the habit and this can be achieved by avoiding situations which trigger a desire to light up.
  • Make your home a smoke-free environment. Politely ask any visitors to refrain from smoking in your home. You could also ask your family, friends and colleagues to support you by not smoking around you. If you like to eat out then always ask for a table in the non-smoking section or avoid restaurants which allow smoking altogether.
  • Substitution. If you feel the urge to smoke then try to satisfy this urge by substituting a cigarette for chewing gum or by eating something health. I doesn't have to be anything too worthy: mango or a banana are easy and light snacks, or you could keep a bag of nuts by your desk. If you need to do something with your hands then find something to fiddle with – a pencil or a coin might do the trick.
  • Think of the benefits and stay stopped. Remember to congratulate yourself each day on having made it so far. Try making a list of what you’re gaining by not smoking: less coughing, cleaner clothes, improved health and breathing. Save the money you would have spent on cigarettes for a reward such as a holiday. Think positively and remain determined!

There are lots of support groups out there. If it works for you, try asking a good friend for the support to help you go through with your plan. For more advice, support and tips, you could check out the NHS Smoke Free website, which has dedicated pages about smoking and pregnancy.You can also call the NHSfree smoking helpline on 0800 022 4 332.

As mentioned before, your own GP should be able to give you advice, support and sometimes prescription nicotine replacements (if you don't pay for your prescriptions this might be a more affordable route for you).


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SIDS, cot death, baby, IVF, sperm count, nicotine, male fertility, female fertility, smoking, health, pregnancy, fertility, menopause, NHS Smoke Free
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