Smoking and Pregnancy - A Guide to Stop Smoking

Smoking and pregnancy is a bad combination. It is harmful to both the mother and the developing foetus and should be avoided at all costs. And especially if you want a healthy baby.

And passive smoking is just as bad. Even if you don’t smoke, spending time in a smoke filled environment or breathing in second hand smoke can harm you and your baby in much the same way as if you were a smoker.

If your partner smokes then encourage him to give up. Even better, encourage him to give up whilst you are trying to start a family as smoking impairs both your fertility.

Learn more about this in our Smoking and Fertility section.

So why is it bad for me to smoke during my pregnancy?

Effects of smoking during pregnancy

During pregnancy, your baby gets all of its nourishment from you via the umbilical cord and placenta. These enable oxygen and nutrients to be transported from you to the baby which are essential for its development.

But other substances can travel into the womb which includes cigarette smoke. When you smoke the toxins present in this smoke damage the placenta which affect the way it nourishes the baby. The baby is surrounded by amniotic fluid which is vital for its existence, but if this becomes infected with chemicals from your smoke then it can result in a wide variety of problems.

These include:

  • Increased risk of ‘placenta abruption’: a condition in which the placenta becomes dislodged from the womb prior to the birth. This can lead to a premature birth or a stillborn baby.
  • Increased risk of cot death: this is risk for all newborn babies but even more so for a baby born to a smoker.
  • Increased risk of an ectopic pregnancy or a miscarriage.
  • Increased risk of birth defects such as Spina Bifida or a Cleft Palate.
  • Increased risk of poor lung function and other respiratory diseases (newborn baby).

There is evidence to show that smoking-induced low birth weight can lead to physical and developmental problems in childhood.

There is one particular toxin in cigarette smoke - carbon monoxide which replaces some of the oxygen in your blood. This means that you and your baby will receive less oxygen than normal and this causes the baby’s heart rate to increase as it tried to get more oxygen.

This then stunts its growth and increases the risk of a premature birth. Your baby will have a low birth weight, smaller and less well functioning organs and be prone to a whole range of conditions.

Plus if you carry on smoking once your baby is born then there is a good chance of your baby growing up to do the same. If he/she sees you smoking then he/she will assume that it is acceptable to do so.

Ask yourself if you want your child to become a smoker?

Plus you will find that your baby is often ill in its first year of life. Babies born to smokers are prone to all manner of illnesses and diseases which may need hospital treatment. And they may develop a condition which requires monitoring throughout their life, for example asthma.

As well as the effect on the baby, smoking is also harmful to the expectant mum. If you are expecting a baby and are still smoking then this will cause problems for you too. Breathlessness and chest complaints are two such problems. Plus the increased risk of heart disease, cancer and strokes.

And you may experience a much more difficult labour than previously expected. You will be encouraged to adopt a regular breathing pattern during this time which will be harder to do if you smoke. You may find it hard to maintain a constant deep breathing pattern or become breathless at a very early stage.

If you end up needing a caesarean or have a vaginal tear repaired via a general anaesthetic then you are at greater risk of complications during this as a result of smoking.

If you are pregnant and currently smoking then please stop. It is never too late to quit smoking and doing so will ensure that you and your baby are in the best possible health.

Whatever damage has been caused by smoking will reverse itself once you stop as your body has a remarkable ability to heal itself.

Even if you are halfway through your pregnancy, stopping smoking can ensure that your baby is the same weight as a baby born to a non-smoker.

Quitting smoking isn’t easy but there is help available to you. Visit our Stopping Smoking section to learn more about the type of help on offer.

Problems with smoking - Guide to Stop Smoking Index:

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