Do Vapes Effect Fertility?

Australian fertility specialist Dr Manuela Toledo has been warning vapers and smokers that ecigs have a negative impact and “significant” impact on fertility. The announcement will clearly impact those currently trying to conceive, but what is the science and what do the health bodies in the United Kingdom say?

male fertilityWho is Dr Manuela Toledo?

Her page on the website of her employer says: “After graduating from The University of Melbourne and completing residency at St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne, Manuela specialised in obstetrics and gynaecology becoming a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in 2004.”

She sounds like an expert

In obstetrics and gynaecology, yes. But maybe not so much in the subject area of tobacco harm reduction and vaping.

What has she said?

Vaping has just taken off, and if it can affect your lungs it doesn’t take much of a leap to affect [sic] your sperm or eggs. I think longer term studies will show there are significant and long term health affects [sic] of vaping. We think vaping will have some detrimental effect which we should be very cautious about.”

She went on to say that vaping will have a similar effect to smoking but she doesn’t cite research and her statement is focussed on what she believes and not what she can prove.

How does smoking effect fertility?

Burning tobacco releases thousands of toxic chemical compounds, carbon monoxide and tar.

This cocktail of carcinogens and toxins means that smokers take twice as long to conceive as non-smokers and those undergoing IVF average twice as many procedures. This is because smoking damages the DNA contained within sperm and eggs.

Smoking results in low sperm counts and impairs sperm motility (inhibits their movement), meaning a sperm is much less likely to make the long journey to fuse with the egg cell.

Does vaping have the same effect?

All of the studies that claim it does all share similarities. Firstly, they are all produced in countries with a negative attitude to vaping and tobacco harm reduction, unlike the United Kingdom. Secondly, they don’t look at the subject in terms of real world vaping, replicating how vapers vape.

By and large, they can be split into two types of study:

  • Animal – mice and rats have had eliquid injected into their gut
  • Petri dish – sex cells have been drowned in e-liquid solutions

The only reliable conclusion to be drawn from them is not to drink a lot of e-liquid or inject yourself in the stomach if you are trying to conceive – especially if you are a mouse.

What studies can we rely on?

Ones such as Vaping in Pregnancy: A Systematic Review, which concluded with the phrase: “vaping in pregnancy has little or no effect on birthweight.”

We know that there is no carbon monoxide or tar in vapour – and switching to vaping eliminates almost all of the toxins. Those that are found in vape and smoke are at much reduced levels in vapour.

As ASH UK points out, almost all people who vape used to be smokers – therefore it can be concluded that switching to vaping prior to trying to conceive would have a positive impact as there is no evidence that the act of vaping alters sex cell DNA.

The charity has worked with the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group to produce a range of resources for people wanting to know more about using e-cigarettes before, during and after pregnancy and provides slides summarising the use of nicotine during pregnancy.

The simple fact is that non-smokers shouldn’t take up smoking or vaping, especially when trying to conceive, but for smokers it is a no brainer to quit smoking…and if they struggle to do that then switching to vaping will improve their chances of conception and a successful birth.

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