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Smoking: Sexual and Reproductive Problems

Overview

Smoking can affect sexual activity in both men and women.

Men

Men who smoke may have trouble getting and keeping an erection. This is because smoking can slowly and permanently damage blood vessels throughout the body, including those that carry blood to the penis. An erection is caused when blood flow to the penis increases. So damaged blood vessels may cause erection problems (impotence).

Nicotine may make the blood vessels narrower for a short time. This may also make it more difficult for enough blood to get into the penis for a normal erection.

Quitting smoking may help prevent new damage from happening inside the blood vessels. Men who quit smoking often have fewer problems with having a normal erection.

Women

Women who smoke may also have less sexual sensation. And smoking can also cause other health problems.

During sexual arousal, a woman's genitals swell with blood. Nicotine narrows blood vessels, which makes it harder for blood to fill the genitals. So women who smoke may have less sexual sensation or feel less aroused.

Smoking while using hormonal birth control increases a woman's risks for other health problems, such as blood clots, heart attack, and stroke. And birth control may not work as well, because smoking can lower the level of estrogen in the body.

Compared to women who do not smoke, women who smoke are likely to have longer, more painful, and irregular menstrual cycles or periods.

Women who smoke may also take longer to get pregnant.

Related Information

Credits

Current as of: November 8, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Michael F. Bierer MD - Internal Medicine, Addiction Medicine

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