Does Smoking Affect Male Fertility and Reduce Sperm Count and Quality?

Updated on & Medically Reviewed by Dr Lalitha
Does Smoking Affect Male Fertility and Reduce Sperm Count and Quality?

In these modern times, many couples are facing an alarming problem in their marital life, that is infertility. It has been found that male infertility accounts for 40% of all infertility cases in the world. Many factors are responsible to affect male infertility such as environmental factors, lifestyle changes, lack of sleep, stress, and sexual dysfunction. Among lifestyle changes, smoking has been found to cause harmful effects on male reproduction and infertility.

Cigarette smoking has long been recognized as a major cause of health problems, including cancer, respiratory diseases, and heart disease. However, many people may not realize that smoking can also have a negative impact on male fertility and sperm quality.

Men who smoke have been found to have sexual dysfunction, poor semen quality, and sperm abnormalities like less sperm density, motility, and count. Tobacco smoke has hazardous substances like nicotine, heavy metals (cadmium and lead), and carcinogens which damage the sperms and lead to poor semen quality. But the good news is smoking, is a reversible factor for infertility as quitting smoking helps to improve male infertility.

Facts about Tobacco Smoking

Tobacco consumption is increasing worldwide and so it is important to know the harmful effects caused by tobacco on male reproduction. Tobacco is available in many forms and smoking in any form causes damage to sperm and semen quality which is associated with male infertility.

  1. Tobacco contains more than 4000 kinds of substances including toxic substances like nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, radioactive substances and heavy metals like cadmium and lead.
  2. Hazardous ingredients of tobacco smoke such as nicotine, cadmium, and lead are known to damage sperms and cause poor quality semen which is linked to male infertility.
  3. It has been found that damage of sperms is directly related to the amount of nicotine and heavy metals and smoking exposure.
  4. Smoking over 20 cigarettes per day is found to be harmful to the body and affects male fertility and reproductive capacity too.

Effects of Smoking on Male Reproductive System

  • Smoking affects the male sexual functions which can cause male infertility such as:
    • Low sexual desire or libido can be caused by nicotine present in tobacco smoke.
    • Impotence due to ED – Erction normally occurs when there is an adequate blood supply to the penis so that the blood vessels around the penis get enlarged and fill with blood. Smoking disrupts the blood supply to the penis and causes ED which may be a cause for male infertility.
  • Smoking affects the quality of semen as it damages the sperms which affect fertilization and leads to male infertility. The damage to sperms can occur in many ways such as:
    • Decrease in sperm motility (the ability of sperms to swim)
    • Decrease in sperm viability and longevity (ability to thrive for a long time)
    • Decrease in sperm density (internal normal constituents)
    • Decrease in sperm count (less than 15million per milliliter)
    • Causes DNA damage in sperms by DNA fragmentation or change in chromatin structure
    • Decrease in the function of sperms due to the negative effect on the function of the sperm membrane.
    • Change in the morphology of sperms, (abnormal shape usually in the head or tail of the sperm structure

Which Male Sex Organs and Hormones are Affected by Smoking?

The primary function of the male sex organ testis is spermatogenesis (production of sperms) and production of male sex hormones (Androgens). Male sex hormone Testosterone is produced by Leydig cells of the testis, which plays an important role in spermatogenesis and maintenance of healthy sperms responsible for fertilization and fertility.

  1. Smoking increases the metabolism of the testosterone hormone in the liver and may lead to low levels of the hormone in the body which affects sperm health.
  2. In smokers, there is a decrease in the secretory function of cells of the testis which also can impair sperm quality.
  3. Hormones from the pituitary gland regulate cells in the testis and if there is hormonal imbalance, the function of the testicular cells gets disturbed and affects sperm health.
  4. In smokers, the epididymal function also gets affected which can damage sperm maturation.
  5. Low levels of testosterone also affect male sexual functions such as low libido and ED.

Does Smoking Affect Male Fertility in Men with Varicocoele?

Varicocele is abnormal engorgement of the veins in the scrotum which is a major cause for male infertility.

  • Smoking associated with varicocele has detrimental effects on sperms and alters semen quality.
  • Smoking and varicocele both affect the quality of sperms and, is found to decrease the sperm count, which affects fertilization and causes male infertility.
  • Hence it is advised to quit smoking and get the varicocele treated for improving male fertility.

Does Quitting Smoking Help in Improving Male Fertility?

Men who quit smoking have many health benefits and can improve fertility.

  • Those men who stop smoking have healthier sperms and better semen quality which helps for fertilization of the egg.
  • Smokers who suffer from sexual problems due to ED will have a better sex life when they quit smoking, as they will have firmer and faster erections. Healthier sexual life is important to improve fertility.

How Long After Quitting Smoking Does Male Fertility and Sperm Improve?

The cycle of spermatogenesis (production of sperms) usually takes 3 months in the body and hence cessation of smoking for 3 months may improve sperm health and restore fertility.

How to Quit Smoking and Cope-Up by Natural Ways?

  1. Drink lots of water or fluids like non-sugary juices.
  2. Exercise regularly and keep active to keep busy.
  3. A healthy diet with a good amount of vitamins and minerals.
  4. Natural herbs or extracts, like green tea
  5. Yoga and meditation to reduce stress.
  6. Spend time with non-smokers.
  7. Counseling to quit smoking by a medical professional.
  8. Try nicotine replacement therapy, if needed.

Male fertility is a frustrating problem for couples especially in the age group of 25-40 yrs caused and this infertility may be due to many factors. Tobacco smoking is one of the reversible causes of male infertility. Tobacco has hazardous chemicals like nicotine, cadmium, and lead which damage the sperm and decrease the male sexual function.

Smoking reduces semen quality which includes sperm abnormalities like a decrease in sperm motility, density, viability, count and function, that affect the process of fertilization and fertility. Smoking causes hormonal disturbances, sexual dysfunction, disturbances in sperm production, maturation, and function that may result in infertility. As healthier sperms are important for the process of fertilization, it is important to improve male fertility by quitting smoking.

As a man quits smoking the semen quality improves and the sex life improves, thus improving fertility. Try to quit smoking through natural methods or replacement therapy.

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Disclaimer: The information provided on this page is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, please talk to a healthcare professional.

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