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Secondhand Smoke Affects Fertility

Secondhand Smoke Affects Fertility

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Cigarette smoking is widely recognized as a health hazard, yet it remains prevalent in our society. It's known that smoking can affect a woman's fertility, but a recent study shows that living with a smoker can have just as much effect on fertility as actually smoking. Researchers claim that the effect is so clear that they are already warning their patients to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke. The study appears online at oxfordjournals.org.

In the study, 225 women undergoing fertility treatments were asked whether they were nonsmokers, smokers, or living with a partner who smoked regularly. The researchers then compared the success rates of the fertility treatments among the three groups. The women had undergone either in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), an enhanced form of IVF in which a single sperm is injected into the egg. Despite similar embryo quality, there was a striking difference in implantation and pregnancy rates. Per embryo transferred: 48 percent of nonsmokers became pregnant, 19 percent of smokers became pregnant, and 20 percent of women living with a smoker became pregnant. The authors note that the study was limited by its reliance on self-reported exposure to secondhand smoke.

Although the findings are important, these results will need to be confirmed in another study with more objective measures of cigarette smoke exposure, such as looking at a dose-related effect on fertility. Despite the need for further study, the researchers say they are already advising patients about the impact of secondhand smoke on fertility. According to researcher Warren Foster, "the findings from our study already warrant a warning to women to reduce or, if possible, prevent exposure to cigarette smoking, especially if they are trying to conceive."

Dr. Mark Perloe is the medical director of Georgia Reproductive Specialists, a resource for egg donors and fertility treatments.

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