How do smoking and drinking affect conception?
The list of pregnancy dos and don'ts may feel long, with everything from whether or not it's OK to dye your hair, have a cup of coffee or take a bath up for debate. But for millions of women, it's not the dos and don'ts of pregnancy that weigh on their minds; rather it's the dos and don'ts of getting pregnant.
For a healthy woman in her 20s (younger than 27 years old), the chances of conceiving are about 50-50 from month to month. At 30, though, those odds drop, and women only have about a 20 percent chance of conceiving each month. And at 40, the odds of conception drop to just 5 percent each month [sources: American Society for Reproductive Medicine; Hall]. With about 20 percent of American women waiting until after the age of 35 to conceive, and with about 10 percent of women ages 15 to 44 suffering from infertility, tips for boosting the chance of conception each month become ever more valuable as time ticks by.
The quantity and quality of both eggs and sperm are key ingredients in having a healthy baby. At birth, a woman has more than a million eggs. That number dwindles to about 250,000 to 300,000 by the time she reaches puberty. But even with that many eggs down for the count, a woman ovulates about 300 to 500 times during her reproductive years, which is more than enough, right? Right, except that eggs have an expiration date. The body absorbs unused eggs, a degenerative process called follicular atresia.
Men, while long thought to be able to father healthy babies well into their advanced years, should also be aware that they, too, have a ticking clock. It's been found that men may suffer from decreased fertility as they age. They may also face an increase in misshapen and defective sperm. But it's not only age that diminishes our ability to conceive. Lifestyle choices such as smoking and drinking have been found to affect conception, as well.
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