Fertility Problems and Secondhand Smoke Linked
Researchers have found that women exposed to secondhand smoke, either as adults or children, were significantly more likely to face fertility problems and suffer miscarriages.
A study of more than 4,800 non-smoking women concluded that those who were exposed to secondhand smoke six or more hours per day as children and adults faced a 68 percent greater chance of having difficulty getting pregnant and suffering one or more miscarriages.
The study is published in the medical journal Tobacco Control and is one of the first publications to demonstrate the lasting effects of secondhand smoke exposure on women during childbearing years say scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
"These statistics are breathtaking and certainly points to yet another danger of secondhand smoke exposure," says Dr. Luke J. Peppone, at Rochester's James P. Wilmot Cancer Center.
In the study, four out of five women reported exposure to secondhand smoke during their lifetime. Half of the women grew up in a home with smoking parents and nearly two-thirds of them were exposed to some secondhand smoking at the time of the survey.
More than 40 percent of these women had difficulty getting pregnant (infertility lasting more than a year) or suffered miscarriages, some repeatedly.
"We all know that cigarettes and secondhand smoke are dangerous,” says Dr. Peppone. “Breathing the smoke has lasting effects, especially for women when they're ready for children.”
Peppone analyzed information in the Patient Epidemiology Data System, a well-studied cohort that has yielded information on a variety of cancers.
He looked at surveys collected from 4,804 women who visited Roswell Park Cancer Institute for health screenings or cancer care from 1982-1998.
The 16-page survey focused on lifestyle, habits, family and personal health history, and occupational and environmental exposures.
Each participant in this study reported that they had never smoked and had been pregnant at least once or tried to become pregnant.
Participants reported whether one or both of their parents smoked and if they lived with or worked with smokers as adults. They also estimated the amount of time they were exposed to second hand smoke.
Dr. Peppone acknowledges that the data is based upon self-reporting which can be a less than ideal method. .
However, he adds, "Women, especially mothers, have extremely accurate recall. Mothers can easily recall details like how long they breastfed, what vitamins they took during prenatal care, and childhood activities."
Many of the women in the study grew up in the 1940s and 1950s long before the surgeon general issued the first warning in 1964 about the dangers of cigarette smoking.
Since then, millions of dollars have been spent to study the dangers of cigarette smoking. Tobacco use contributes to nearly 90 percent of all deadly lung cancers and to 30 percent of all cancer deaths in the US. It also contributes to a host of other health problems.
Since the mid-1960s, smoking bans and government-funded anti-smoking campaigns have encouraged smokers to quit and discouraged others from starting using a number of passive and aggressive techniques.
Smoking rates have declined; however, people continue to use tobacco and suffer the health risks.
Always consult your physician for more information.
Infertility is defined by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) as a disease of the reproductive system that impairs the body's ability to perform the basic function of reproduction.
Although conceiving a child may seem to be simple and natural, the physiological process is quite complicated and depends on the proper function of many factors, including production of healthy sperm by the man; production of healthy eggs by the woman; unblocked fallopian tubes that allow the sperm to reach the egg; the sperm's ability to fertilize the egg; the ability of the fertilized egg to become implanted in the uterus; and adequate embryo quality.
Infertility affects about 12 percent of couples of childbearing age. Infertility is not just a woman's concern.
A problem with the male is the sole cause, or a contributing cause, of infertility in about 50 percent of infertile couples.
About one-third of infertile couples have more than one cause or factor related to their inability to conceive. About 20 percent of couples have no identifiable cause for their infertility after medical investigation.
Many different factors and problems can cause infertility, including problems in the female reproductive system, the male reproductive system, or a combination of the two.
The following are some of the conditions or factors that are associated with female infertility:
With this condition, the woman's reproductive system does not produce the proper amounts of hormones necessary to develop, mature, and release a healthy egg.
Abnormal development or function of the female anatomy can prevent the egg and the sperm from meeting. The most common anatomical problem is blockage of the fallopian tubes. Other anatomical problems may include the presence of pelvic scar tissue from previous surgeries or infections.
Endometriosis is a condition in which the tissue that lines the uterus develops outside the uterus, usually on other reproductive organs inside the pelvis or in the abdominal cavity. Each month, this misplaced tissue responds to the hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle by building up and breaking down, resulting in internal bleeding which can cause scar tissue to form and affect reproductive organ function.
Abnormal development and function of reproductive organs resulting from birth defects can affect fertility. One of the most common reproductive system birth defects occurs following a woman's exposure to DES (diethylstilbestrol) taken by her mother during pregnancy. In years past, DES was given to women at risk for pregnancy loss. Fetal DES exposure often causes abnormal development of the uterus and cervix.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is caused by a type of bacteria such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. PID can affect the uterus, fallopian tubes, and/or the ovaries. It can lead to pelvic adhesions and scar tissue that develops between internal organs, causing ongoing pelvic pain and the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy (the fertilized egg becomes implanted outside the uterus).
A problem with a woman's immune system can lead to pregnancy loss. Antibodies (immune or protective proteins) in a woman's system can fail to recognize a pregnancy, or there may be an abnormal immune response to the pregnancy. Women can also develop antisperm antibodies which attack and destroy sperm.
Always consult your physician for more information.