Reproductive Health Challenges In Young Women Smokers: A Growing Concern

There has been, in recent times, a substantial increase in the incidence of reproductive health issues among young women who smoke. This includes teenagers and young professional women aged between 20 and 40.

Smoking has been associated with a range of potential reproductive health issues, viz., — 

  • Menstrual irregularities. Smoking has been correlated with disruptions in the menstrual cycle, especially among women with polycystic ovary syndrome [PCOS]
  • Fertility challenges. Smoking is connected to heightened difficulties in conception. Nicotine and other harmful substances in cigarettes can negatively impact the ovaries and disrupt hormonal balance, making conception challenging
  • High-risk pregnancy and complications. Pregnant women who smoke face an elevated risk of complications, including pre-term birth, low-birth weight, and developmental issues. Exposure to second-hand smoke is also linked to adverse outcomes for the mother and the developing foetus
  • Increased risk of miscarriage. Women smokers have a higher likelihood of experiencing miscarriages compared to non-smokers. The toxic components of cigarettes may compromise the viability of a developing pregnancy, no less
  • Potential risk of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is one of the third-most common cancer in women worldwide. It is a preventable disease. Smoking not only worsens the persistence of HPV, a well-known precursor to cervical cancer, but it also places an additional burden on the already complex landscape of women’s health. Young women, who smoke, may unknowingly expose themselves to such risks, jeopardising their reproductive health, as also the health of potential future generations.

Says Dr Prathima Reddy, Director & Lead Consultant-Obstetrics and Gynaecology at SPARSH Hospital, Bangalore, “We have been noticing a significant uptick in reproductive health issues among young women who smoke, and it is crucial that we take proactive steps to addressing this trend. Approximately 10 per cent of women, presenting with various reproductive disorders, are constant smokers. Many women adopt to smoking and alcohol consumption as ‘stress busters.’ Smoking, among young women, not only threatens their health, but also poses specific and alarming risks to their overall well-being. It is crucial that we prioritise education, intervention, and support to mitigate these risks. We also need to empower young women with knowledge about the potential risks they face and encourage them to make healthier lifestyle choices.” 

Says Dr Samta Singhania, infertility specialist, Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Apollo Clinic, Pune, “Smoking can accelerate the loss of eggs, which can reduce fertility. Women are born with a set number of eggs that decrease over time, and smoking could speed up this decline. Smoking can harm the fallopian tubes, where fertilisation typically occurs. This damage can interfere with the egg’s journey from the ovary to the uterus, making conception difficult. Smoking can disrupt hormone levels essential for conception and pregnancy too. It can affect oestrogen production, which is crucial for the menstrual cycle and maintaining a healthy reproductive system. Smoking increases the risk of miscarriage. Smoking can reduce a woman’s ovarian reserve — the number and quality of eggs available for fertilisation. Women, who smoke, may reach menopause earlier than non-smokers.”

— This piece is published in public interest, by Courtesy of Sania Fernandez, K2 Communications.


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