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Smoking cuts chances of IVF success

8 April 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 303

Women undergoing IVF; treatment who smoke are much less likely to have a baby than non-smokers, Dutch researchers say. The study, carried out by a team based at the University Medical Centre in Nijmegen, showed that smoking more than one cigarette a day cuts the chances of success by 28 per cent - a difference equivalent to that between a 20 and a 30 year old woman undergoing treatment. The research, published in the journal Human Reproduction, also showed that being overweight lowers the chances of conceiving.

Although several previous studies have shown that smoking affects both male and female fertility, the latest findings add weight to the link, since the team investigated 8,457 women undergoing fertility treatment. Doctors at 12 centres in the Netherlands collected data from patients enrolled in the OMEGA study, which was started in 1995 to investigate the effects of hormone stimulation. The scientists looked at the success rate of the first cycle of treatment, information on reproduction and lifestyle, and medical records of IVF treatment from 1983-1995. More than 40 per cent of the women were smokers at the start of their treatment, and more than seven per cent were overweight.

The researchers found that overall, the live birth rate for smokers was 28 per cent lower than that of non-smokers. The harmful effects of smoking on success rate was strongest in women with unexplained fertility, who had a live birth rate 35 per cent lower than non-smoking women in this group. 'These results indicate that smoking may actually be causing the infertility problems these women were having', said study author Didi Braat. As well as affecting the chances of conceiving a baby, smoking also increased the chances of a miscarriage occurring, by almost 25 per cent. Being overweight also decreased the success rate of IVF treatment by a third, and as with smoking, the effect was greatest in women with no obvious reason for their infertility.

Braat said that the research 'clearly shows' that both smoking and being overweight 'unfavourably affect the live birth rate after IVF'. She added that smoking has a 'devastating impact', comparable to adding a decade to the reproductive age of a 20-year-old woman. Lead researcher Bea Lintsen said that the positive news from the study was that couples - particularly those with unexplained fertility - 'may be able to improve the success of IVF treatment by quitting smoking and losing weight'. Clare Brown, chief executive of the charity Infertility Network UK, said the research highlights the importance for couples who smoke, particularly the women, to stop. 'NICE guidelines on fertility treatment published in February 2004 also recommend that couples give up smoking as well as cut down on alcohol consumption before embarking on fertility treatment', she added.

Research shows smoking adds a decade to reproductive age of IVF patients
Medical News Today |  7 April 2005
Smoking 'cuts IVF success rate'
BBC News Online |  7 April 2005
Smoking has 'devastating impact' on IVF success
The Daily Telegraph |  7 April 2005
Smoking slashes women's chances of IVF success
New Scientist |  7 April 2005
8 July 2008 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
BioNews reporting from ESHRE conference, Barcelona:By Dr Kirsty Horsey: Scientists looking at pregnancy rates in women who have previously had IVF treatment say that lifestyle factors play a large part in whether a woman will go on to achieve a natural pregnancy or not. Speaking at the annual meeting...
27 May 2005 - by BioNews 
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Scientists at the Institute of Health Sciences at Oxford University, UK, have published findings that say that women who smoke impair their fertility. Their report, published in the Journal of Biosciences, states that women who do not give up smoking before they try to become pregnant take significantly longer to...
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