Being exposed to cigarette smoke as a baby or foetus could reduce a female’s fertility, new Australian research has found.
The three-year study examined the effect that three chemicals found in cigarettes had on ovarian development and egg fertilisation.
It found females who were exposed to the toxins through cigarette smoke during the early stages of life could experience a reduction in the quality and number of their eggs, Professor Eileen McLaughlin from the University of Newcastle said.
“We believe that exposure to these toxins as a foetus dramatically reduces egg quality and quantity before birth and that this reduced fertility may be passed on to the next generation,” Prof McLaughlin said in a statement.
“It means that if your grandmother smoked – either while pregnant with your mother or near her when she was a baby – you and possibly your children may be at risk of reduced fertility.”
According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, more than one-third of pregnant Australian women under the age of 25 continue to smoke during pregnancy and premature ovarian failure continues to be a major cause of female infertility before the age of 40.
Prof McLaughlin’s research has been published in the Journal of Toxicological Sciences and the Journal of Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, and was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.