I smoked for 10 years from the age of 25 to 35. I made the decision to stop when my husband and I made the decision to start a family. My husband had been married before and had had a vasectomy, so getting pregnant naturally was not an option, I had to have IVF treatment.
After talking to our GP, we headed off to a fertility clinic and had various tests. After speaking to both my clinician and nurse, I realised I had a lot going against me – because I was in my mid-30s and was a smoker, smoking about a packet a day.
When we decided to try for a baby I did some research which showed that smoking caused all sorts of issues with fertility, for both men and women. Overall, there was a general reduction in the chance of me falling pregnant, possible damage to my eggs, and should I actually get pregnant, it could cause damage to my unborn baby and the possibility of a miscarriage. It was at that point I decided to quit smoking. There wasn’t much I could do about my age, but there was something I could do about the smoking.
I also encouraged my husband to quit smoking. Not just for the support but because I had also found out that smoking had a very detrimental effect on sperm. My husband was going to have to undergo a testicular biopsy to obtain his sperm for the treatment, so we wanted to do anything we could do to make sure IVF was successful and we ended up with a healthy baby.
I won’t lie. Smoking was difficult to give up. This was back in the 90s when it was still socially acceptable to smoke, so I was encountering friends and family members who smoked. I decided to go cold turkey. I knew myself well enough that if I chose to slowly cut down, in all likelihood, I would start again. We were going to Bali for a 10-day holiday, so I chose that as a logical end-point to my habit. I had my last cigarette outside the terminal, gave my half-full cigarette packet and lighter to the friend who had driven us to the airport and walked inside. There was no turning back. We boarded the flight and it took about six hours to get to Bali.
Once we were there, the physical addiction kicked in as I hadn’t had a cigarette for six hours. Then there were the triggers … the morning coffee, having a drink, the time of day. All of these called for a cigarette. But I stood strong. Once, halfway through the holiday, I nearly succumbed after several drinks, but one of my friends talked me out of it. And I am so glad he did.
By the time we got back to Melbourne 10 days later, the physical addiction had gone and all I was left was the psychological addiction. I think this may have been tougher, but since I was feeling so much better, I chose not to succumb.
About nine months later, I still hadn’t managed to get pregnant and my beloved mum, a packet-a- day smoker for more than 50 years, had a massive stroke, caused by her long term addiction. If anything helped my resolve to never smoke again, this was it.
Our IVF journey was not easy but my third full cycle of treatment produced my beautiful son number one and the fourth cycle, a year later, gorgeous son number 2. I am so glad I gave up smoking – not just because it more than likely helped me conceive, but also that I am here to enjoy them now they are energetic boys aged 13 and 12. Obviously being fit and healthy is critical with teenage boys!
Mum survived for another eight years after the stroke but with the physical and mental disabilities, she was never the same. She never really got to enjoy her grandsons due to her disabilities and I am very sad about that, for both her and the boys. I really wish that she had have been able to be the grandmother she could have been.
To anyone out there who is hoping to have a baby, whether you are a woman or a man, trying naturally or with IVF, if you are a smoker, it will help your chances of conceiving to quit. Think about looking at your beautiful healthy baby as a most deserved reward!
We’re pairing up with the Your Fertility campaign to share information about how smoking can affect your chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy baby. Read more about how smoking and other factors affect your chances of conceiving and having a healthy baby) at www.yourfertility.org.au.
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