Smoking during pregnancy can lower levels of oxygen in the uterus, with negative consequences for the fetus. This could also include fertility problems later in life, according to researchers at the University of Cambridge.
A team exposed a group of pregnant guinea pigs to smoking and other factors that lower the levels of oxygen to the fetus. When the young arrived at adulthood, they also examined their fertility. The females had older ovaries and fewer available eggs than the average. As a result, they were also less fertile than peers who had received the right amount of oxygen.
Prenatal hypoxia is linked to several possible causes, including smoking. Others are living at high altitude, obesity, preeclampsia. Besides being risky in the short term, it also has important consequences for the long term. For example, it increases the risk of heart disease in adulthood. However, no one had ever examined the effects on the reproductive system.
Prenatal oxygen-free guinea pigs had fewer eggs. Furthermore, the telomeres of the ovarian tissues were much shorter than they should have been. As a result, the cells had a shorter life than the average and the oocytes lived less. Rats and humans have a similar reproductive system, so the discovery is easy to translate on humans. More research will be needed, but there is reason to believe that smoking during pregnancy reduces the productive life of the offspring. And maybe not just that.