Nicotine is bad news for future dads

It is well known that men should avoid smoking if they want to become dads. However, a new study suggests that they should also steer clear of all nicotine products, including e-cigarettes and nicotine-containing patches or gum, to increase their likelihood to conceive.

“The study showed that nicotine has adverse effects on human sperm that could harm a man’s ability to get a woman pregnant,” said the lead researcher, Dr Peter Oyeyipo, from the Division of Medical Physiology at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences ahead of World No Tobacco Day (31 May). “People forget that cigarettes are not the only nicotine-containing products – patches and gum used for nicotine replacement also contain the substance.”

The study

This laboratory study, recently published in the scientific journal Andrologia, found that nicotine negatively affected the sperm cell’s ability to swim (motility), the number of live cells (viability) and the sperm’s ability to join with the female egg (acrosome reaction).

When men are exposed to nicotine it shows up in their seminal fluid, where sperm cells come into contact with it.

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The study investigated the effect of nicotine exposure on the sperm cells of 12 healthy males. In a laboratory, the sperm cells were exposed to four different concentrations of nicotine (ranging from low to high) over different periods of time. In order to establish at what concentration nicotine adversely affects sperm parameters, the amounts of nicotine were similar to and higher than the levels to which men would be exposed through passive, light, medium and heavy smoking.

The good news

“Low nicotine concentrations, equal to the amount of incidental exposure a passive smoker would experience in his day-to-day life, had little or no effect on sperm cells. But as the level of exposure increased, so did the negative impact,” said Oyeyipo, a post-doctoral fellow at the Stellenbosch University Reproductive Research Group (SURRG), whose research focuses on male reproduction.

He does have some good news for former or current smokers hoping to become fathers in future: Oyeyipo’s earlier research showed that a man’s sperm cell production can return to normal after he quits smoking or other forms of nicotine use.

Make a pledge to quit cigarettes and nicotine products for World No Tobacco Day (31 May 2015) 

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