There is so much information available nowadays about the risks of lung cancer, emphysema and other life-threatening conditions and most people are aware of the detrimental effects of smoking when pregnant. I know how shocked many of us feel when we see a heavily pregnant woman standing with a cigarette in her hand. Yet most people are not aware of the impact smoking can have on a couple’s fertility. It’s not surprising that tobacco has such an effect – it contains more than 4,000 compounds, including carbon monoxide, oxide of nitrogen, ammonia, aromatic hydrocarbons, hydrogen cyanide, vinyl chloride, nicotine, lead and cadmium.

Although many women smokers resolve to give up when they get pregnant, they don’t realize that by smoking they are reducing their chances of getting pregnant in the first place. Not only that but you don’t usually know that you are pregnant for the first couple of weeks and the baby will be taking in all that tobacco smoke in the meantime.

The man’s fertility is also affected by smoking – it decreases his sperm count, makes his sperm more sluggish, increases the number of abnormal sperm and reduces his testosterone levels.

In addition, smoking reduces the level of vitamin Ñ in the bloodstream. Lack of vitamin Ñ encourages sperm to clump together (a process known as agglutination) instead of moving forward to fertilise the egg. One study showed how male fertility was improved by giving men 500mg of vitamin Ñ twice a day.

Smoking has definitely been linked with infertility in women. It can even bring on an early menopause, which is an especially important consideration for older women trying to conceive who may be racing against time. If you are a smoker, you should ask yourself why you are taking something into your body that is bringing you nearer to the menopause – and infertility?