December 27, 2012

The Smoking Gun: Why Cigarette Smoking Delays Pregnancy

It has first been presumed, and then linked. Cigarette smoking adversely affects both becoming pregnant and the health of the pregnancy itself. A recent study examined the relationship between heavy metals (found in cigarettes) with increased time to pregnancy. Women who smoke demonstrate higher blood levels of cadmium in women and lead in men, implicating these byproducts with pregnancy delay.

The study was conducted between 2005 and 2009. Couples who smoked submitted blood samples which were assayed for three key components: lead, mercury and cadmium. These couples demonstrated no other aspects of overt infertility. The study revealed that there was greater than 20% reduction in chances of pregnancy with small increases in a women’s cadmium level. This level of impaired fertility rose as the cadmium levels increased. Furthermore, when the male had an elevated blood lead-level, the couple’s probability of pregnancy declined by at least 25%. Mercury was not implicated in alterations of pregnancy probabilities.

This data further implicates the harmful effects of cigarette smoking on the entire cycle of pregnancy. Obviously, additional investigations are necessary to define the exact mechanism my which heavy metals cause such fertility toxicity. Lessons learned from this study warrant that couples should take notice of their environment. These heavy metals, although concentrated in cigarette smoking, also are present in our environment. Couples undergoing home renovations projects where lead based paints are more common should take notice and protect themselves from inadvertent exposure.

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Cigarette Smoking, Lead Exposure Linked to Delayed Pregnancy. Medscape, Feb, 13, 2012.

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Danielle Vitiello, Ph.D., M.D.

Danielle Vitiello, Ph.D., M.D. Board-Certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility