The risks for smoking cigarettes — especially the increased risk of lung cancer and the increased mortality rate — are thoroughly reported nowadays. However, some lesser-known smoking risks specifically affect women.

Reproductive Risks

The chemicals found in cigarettes can have a particularly negative effect on women’s reproductive health. Women who smoke may experience reduced fertility, damaged reproductive organs, and may have difficulty conceiving. They may also have higher testosterone levels, or significantly lower levels of the anti-mullerian hormone (AMH), which could indicate reduced fertility. Smoking can also cause painful and irregular periods. Women may also experience more mood swings and have more fatigue due the lower levels of estrogen smoking can cause.

All of these hormone fluctuations and irregularities can even cause women to experience menopause at a younger age, or have worsened menopausal symptoms.

Heart Disease Risks

Though heart disease is a risk for anyone who smokes, women have a 25% greater risk than men. More research needs to be done as to why, but some theorize that women’s hormones may be one factor.

Women who take oral contraceptives also may experience a higher heart rate, in general. But if a woman smokes while taking oral contraceptives, her risk of heart disease greatly increases. Those over the age of 35 are most susceptible to this “cocktail” of heart disease risk.

Cancer Risks

Most are aware that smoking cigarettes can cause lung cancer, but it can also increase a woman’s chance of getting breast cancer or cervical cancer. Women who smoke also have a higher risk of getting lung cancer, which has a higher mortality rate for women than for men.

Smoking can also cause complications for breast cancer treatment, as it can damage the lungs, making it difficult to heal from radiation or breast reconstruction. Smoking also increases the risk of blood clots from hormonal therapy medicines. In general, “Smoking, cancer and cancer treatments put a tremendous burden on the body, and when combined, they may make it more difficult for the body to recover from treatment,” experts at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America summarize.

Pregnancy Risks

Smoking during pregnancy can cause many complications for both the mother and the unborn baby. Most dangerously, smoking can limit the baby’s supply of oxygen and nutrients and have negative impacts on the mother’s reproductive health. Other pregnancy risks include:

  • Tissue damage to the baby’s lung and brain
  • Low birth weight
  • Premature birth
  • Placenta complications
  • Pregnancy loss

Exposing an unborn baby to nicotine can also affect their development both before and after birth. A study published in Toxicological Sciences shows it may be connected to “impaired fertility, type 2 diabetes, obesity, hypertension, neurobehavioral defects, and respiratory dysfunction.” Smoking during breastfeeding can also have a negative impact on milk production and the nutrients available in your milk. In general, women who quit smoking before or during pregnancy lower their risk of miscarriage and increase their health, as well as the baby’s health.

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