Male children of women who smoke during pregnancy, have lower sperm count sometimes enough to cause impairment when trying to conceive a baby with a partner. Smoking during pregnancy can cause serious consequences to the unborn baby, including low birth weight, premature birth, abruption of the placenta, and stillbirth, but a new study shows the detrimental effects may be further reaching than thought.
Men have billions of sperm, and while it takes just one to fertilize an egg, the number of live sperms that live long enough is not many. This is due to conditions within the vagina, the acid-base balance is hard on many, and others swim up the tube that does not have an ovum. For this reason, a very healthy sperm count is necessary to achieve pregnancy without outside assistance.
‘Women who smoke during pregnancy have chances of giving birth to male children with lower sperm count. This leads to problems like erectile dysfunction, lower libido and infertility, later in life.’
Dr. Christine Wohlfahrt-Veje, a researcher at the University of Copenhagen said the findings of the study were clear. She said "It is harder for men with low sperm counts to conceive children, or it may take a longer time to make the partner pregnant. If women want to have grandchildren, they should not smoke."
The researchers contacted men who were in their 20's, whose mothers had participated in an infant and maternal health study during pregnancy two decades earlier. They also carried out testicular ultrasounds on 404 men and collected sperm samples from 365 men. They looked at the median sperm production, which is the amount of sperm produced by at least half of the male participants in the study. It was found that sperm production was around 19% lower among the men whose mothers had smoked during their pregnancy.
The findings published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism
showed that risk of premature birth goes up for women who smoke during pregnancy. Men born prematurely had lower testosterone in adulthood. They also had higher than normal chances of erectile dysfunction, a complex vascular and neurological disorder that can lead to lack of sexual performance, poor self-esteem, and relationship troubles. Men with erectile dysfunction are more likely to be depressed, which can also lower sexual libido. The researchers also found that smoking during pregnancy may stunt growth in utero, impair the brain development, increase the risk of breathing problems and other childhood health problems such as hyperactivity. A healthy weight during childhood and adolescence may also help with reproductive health.
The only limitation of the study was that some of the men opted out of the testicular function test that may have biased the results.
Lead author of the study, Dr. Roger Hart of the University of Western Australia, said that there is plenty of evidence to suggest women should refrain from smoking during pregnancy. "It is a general healthy lifestyle message that women should not smoke in pregnancy, they should only start to try to conceive when they are in their optimal health, and when any co-existing medical conditions have been optimized, as this is associated with good foetal growth through pregnancy and a reduced risk of premature delivery," Hart said.