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Relationships and Sex 'I used to smoke—did I screw up my fertility?'

We asked an M.D. to get honest with us.

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did smoking in the past affect fertility play

did smoking in the past affect fertility

(Illustration by Julia Rothman)

Every month, we send some of your biggest questions on nutrition, health, and more to our panel of experts to answer.

The question, "When I was younger, I smoked cigarettes and weed. I haven't touched either in five years, but did I do lasting damage to my fertility?" was answered by Sheeva Talebian, M.D.

The bad news: You may have. Women who are current cigarette smokers take longer to get pregnant, have increased pregnancy complications, and have lower pregnancy rates after fertility treatments. These same findings are noted—but to a lesser degree—in past smokers. A history of smoking does inflict other damage; for example, smoking accelerates the rate of egg loss.

The data with marijuana is less clear. As recreational use becomes more prevalent and legal in various states, we will learn more about how it affects female fertility. I think it's very likely we'll find a negative impact similar to tobacco use. Smoking marijuana exposes you to some of the toxins found in tobacco; vaping and consuming edibles may let you bypass this form of toxic exposure, but it's still unclear if there are other repercussions from using those formulations. Overall, unfortunately, our reproductive organs are exposed to everything we have ingested and inhaled, and we can't totally erase the consequences of consistent tobacco and marijuana use.

But here's the good news! By stopping when you did, you prevented years of further damage. And if you were a sporadic smoker, take note: Infrequent smoking has only a nominal effect, so if you smoked a few cigarettes or inhaled a couple of joints in your younger years, don't worry. In any case, if you're having trouble conceiving, see a fertility specialist who can assess your situation and prescribe treatments to help.

This article originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of Women's Health. For more great advice, pick up a copy of the issue on newsstands now!

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