Tobacco consumption might result in severe diseases for both active and passive smokers. Apart from affecting the lungs, it can also cause damage to the heart, throat, and neck that might end up in diseases such as diabetes, cancerous tumours, cardiovascular diseases, and obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD). It can affect reproductive function in a woman’s body as well due to both active and passive smoking. This can lead to various conditions related to the ovaries, affecting their fertility, progress, and the outcome of pregnancies. Today is World No Tobacco Day, so let’s try to understand the impact of smoking on one’s ovaries and pregnancy.
The Impact of Smoking on Female Reproductive Health
- The following factors need to be considered to understand the effect of smoking on ovarian function:
- Hormonal Imbalance: One hormone in a human body is regulated by the secretion of another hormone. Tobacco consumed by the body causes disruption of glands responsible for reproductive hormones, including the thyroid, hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands. The disruption results in an increase in the levels of the stress hormone known as cortisol and the male hormone, testosterone, in females; a spike in cortisol and testosterone can be possibly linked to female infertility. Apart from that, hormones such as oestrogen, progesterone, and anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) cause a decrease in prolactin quantity that negatively affects fertility.
- Ovarian and menstrual conditions: As a result of smoking, hormonal imbalances are known to contribute to ovarian and menstrual cycle disorders. The elevated testosterone levels in a female body are associated with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which can result in irregular ovulation and menstruation, making natural conception challenging. Low levels of oestrogen and progesterone can also cause irregularities in menstrual cycles.
- Menopause: Menopause is a condition of complete cessation of the menstrual cycle, typically taking place in the late 40s or 50s in a female body as a result of the complete depletion of eggs available for ovulation. Smoking increases the rate of damage to the eggs in the ovaries and the depletion of eggs, which causes early menopause. After menopause, a natural pregnancy is impossible.
The impact of smoking on pregnancy
- Smoking affects both the initial stages and progression of pregnancy.
- Pregnancy Complications: Females who smoke have a higher risk of ectopic pregnancies (implantation of an embryo outside the uterus), spontaneous abortion, and miscarriage.
- Foetal development: The carbon monoxide produced while smoking might pose harm to the central nervous system (CNS). It also hinders the development of the foetus in the uterus, resulting in contained growth and a higher likelihood of premature birth. Apart from that, smoking during pregnancy can cause damage to the lungs and brain tissues.
- Genetic anomalies and birth defects: The effects of smoking cause harm to the egg quality and result in fertilised eggs with genetic abnormalities such as Down’s syndrome, Turner syndrome, and Klinefelter syndrome. A child might be born with a cleft lip and/or cleft palate.
- Complications after birth: Children produced by female smokers often have low birth weights, even when carried to full term. The risk of developing health complications and diabetes is higher in children produced by female smokers.
It is extremely important for women to limit tobacco use. Taking their own and their future children’s well-being into account In order to quit smoking, temporary replacements such as nicotine gum, patches, or prescribed medicines can be utilised. These measures will enhance female reproductive health and preserve undamaged eggs for natural conception.
In certain cases, achieving a natural pregnancy might be challenging. Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) methods such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection can be employed to overcome this issue. It is important to understand that damage caused by tobacco to the overall health of a person can impact the success of these procedures as well.
Urman is a mechanical engineer who graduated from Indus University in 2022 and planning to puruse Masters’ degree in a Arts from the Humanities and Social Sciences department at IIT Gandhinagar from July this year. Apart from being an amateur writer, he has also been active in political activism for the past five years and currently is a member of All India Democratic Student Organisation (AIDSO) in Ahmedabad.