A new study has suggested that smoking could lead to early menopause in women who are regular or heavy smokers sooner than non-smokers. Over the last few years there has been a lot of research around smoking and its effects on reproductive health and these new findings show that smoking could have a significant impact, especially as more and more of us are choosing to have children in later life. With New Year just around the corner, perhaps it’s time to make 2016 the year you give up smoking for good for the sake of your reproductive health.
Heavy smokers most at risk
The large-scale study, published in Tobacco Control, involved 79,000 women, who had all already gone through the menopause at the time of recruitment, between 1993 and 1998. The results found that those who had begun smoking from the age of 15 started menopause an average of 21 months earlier than non-smokers, with the highest rates amongst women who were classed as ‘heavy smokers’ and smoked at least 25 cigarettes a day.
The study also looked at other factors which may have impacted upon the age menopause started, including alcohol consumption, education, use of medical contraceptives and ethnicity. Even when these factors differed, the effects of smoking still proved true.
Whilst those most at risk from early menopause are heavy smokers, passive smokers, particularly those who live with people who smoke indoors, are also at risk of early menopause.
Long term effects are uncertain
It is believed that smoking creates a hormone imbalance, effecting oestrogen production, which could be behind early menopause. Whilst other studies have already found links between smoking and problems with conceiving, this is one of the first which has found a link between fertility problems and passive smoking. University of Oxford Professor Ashley Grossman commented: “This is slightly worrying – there is only a slightly increased risk of infertility in smokers compared to never-smokers, but this new study suggests that so-called passive smokers might be similarly affected. Maybe more convincing is the nearly two-year earlier menopause in smokers and around one year in passive smokers; this dose-response effect does suggest we are looking at a true phenomenon.”
Whilst research around the effects of smoking are still ongoing, giving up altogether is a necessary step to safeguard our future health.
Giving up for good
If you’re a smoker and are concerned about your fertility or that of those around you, these findings could give you the push you need to give up smoking altogether. January is a common time of year for people to quit, but many fail within the first few weeks. To ensure that you give up, and give up smoking for good, some key tips for quitting include:
Getting advice from your GP
You may not be aware of it, but your GP can actually help you to quit smoking, providing you with advice and nicotine replacements as well as enrolling you in ‘stop smoking’ clinics which are designed to make to make it easier for to quit.
Take advantage of free ‘Quit Kit’
With more and more energy being focused on lowering the rates of smokers in the UK, there is plenty of free help available to help you quit. Order your Quit Kit free online, which features advice, downloads, information as well as a wall chart to help you stay on top of your progress.
Don’t go ‘cold turkey’
Trying to give up smoking by yourself can be difficult, and is a reason why many people fall off the wagon within the first few weeks. Those who use nicotine replacement therapy are more likely to succeed and your GP may be able to prescribe you with some free aids on the NHS.
Whilst giving up can be difficult, the effects on your health far outweigh the unpleasantness of stopping smoking. There is plenty of online support available to help you quit, including help from others who have been in your shoes. If you’re looking for further advice on quitting, or want to know what help is available to you for free, the NHS website has plenty of great resources to help you make it through.