How Smoking and Drinking Affect Male Fertility

There are many lifestyle factors that can affect male fertility, including smoking and drinking.  Identifying some of these modifiable risk factors can be important for couples, since male infertility plays a role for over one-third of couples who are struggling to conceive.

A review of how smoking and drinking can affect male fertility was recently presented online at UrologyTimes.com by Drs. Premal Patel and Ranjith Ramaswamy.  Here’s what the authors found:

  • Cigarettes – smoking cigarettes can lead to significant abnormalities in sperm production and sperm quality.
    • Prior studies have shown that smoking cigarettes can lead to decreased sperm concentration and motility.  Cigarette smoking has also been associated with increased sperm DNA damage. The exact mechanism of how cigarettes lead to these changes is unknown, but the likely causative agent is nicotine.  In a study on male rats, the more nictotine a rat was exposed to, the worse his sperm characteristics were.
    • Paternal smoking has also been shown to be associated with lower assisted reproductive technology success rates, including in vitro fertilization and intracytoplasmic sperm injection.
  • Marijuana – the medical literature on whether or not marijuana use affects male fertility is mixed.
    • Some studies have found marijuana use to have a negative impact on male reproduction and be associated with decreased sperm concentration and motility.
    • Larger studies still need to be done though to know if there is a true impact of marijuana use on male fertility.
  • Alcohol – excessive alcohol consumption might affect sperm quality.
    • Some studies have shown that excessive alcohol use can cause alterations in semen parameters and sperm DNA, but this is another area where larger studies need to be done to confirm the findings.
    • For now, it is recommended that men avoid excessive alcohol consumption prior to providing a sample for in vitro fertilization.

For couples who are struggling with infertility, changing some of these lifestyle factors might help them conceive and improve their success rates with assisted reproductive technology.  For more information on how lifestyle factors can affect fertility, visit our Lifestyle and Fertility page.

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