Smoking in pregnancy can lead to male infertility


As if you didn’t need another reason to stop smoking in pregnancy, research has found that smoking while pregnant with sons, may lead to male infertility later in your son’s life.

The NSW study led by the University of Newcastle found that in mice compounds found in cigarette smoke affect the testes in utero with lasting consequences for male infertility in adulthood. For ethical reasons, the study cannot be performed in humans, however the study was well-designed and carefully executed.


Allan Pacey, Senior Lecturer in Andrology, University of Sheffield, said:

“We have suspected for some time that one of the most important times for a man’s fertility is during the period before he is born or during those early weeks when he is being breast-fed and absorbing his mother’s breast-milk. We think this is because, during this time, the testicle is at its most sensitive and testicular cells, which go on to produce sperm after puberty, is established. So any external factors the boy is exposed to through his mother’s blood supply or through breast milk has the potential to decrease his fertility later in life.”

Male infertility in Australia

In Australia, male infertility affects 1 in 20 men []. Australian men who experience sexual difficulties have reported anxiety with performance, and eventual lack of interest in sex []. If mothers can improve their son’s reproductive abilities prior to birth or during breastfeeding, these long-term consequences could be avoided.

Smoking in pregnancy

With known effects of smoking on an unborn babies’ oxygen supply, the effect on fertility adds now to the list of growing reasons to quit smoking. Other effects smoking in pregnancy can have after your baby is born:

  • sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • colic
  • birth defects
  • asthma
  • respiratory infections
  • childhood obesity

….one last warning for pregnant women…

Prof Sheena Lewis, Professor of Reproductive Medicine at Queens University Belfast and Chair of British Andrology Society, warns mothers:

“Mums who smoke when pregnant are potentially doing irreversible damage to their sons’ fertility. If these Mums care about their sons’ future happiness and want grandchildren, they should stop smoking during pregnancy.”

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About Dinethra Menon

Dinethra Menon is a freelance medical writer based in Sydney with over a decade of medical communications expertise. She has a Bachelor of Science from the University of Melbourne and a post graduate diploma in genetic counselling.

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