Protecting your baby from tobacco smoke is one of the best things you can do to give your child a healthy start in life. It’s never too late to stop smoking. Every cigarette you smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, so smoking when you are pregnant harms your unborn baby. Cigarettes can restrict the essential oxygen supply to your baby, so their heart has to beat harder every time you smoke.
Side effects of smoking in pregnancy
Lower the amount of oxygen available to you and your growing baby.
Increase your baby’s heart rate.
Increase the chances of miscarriage and stillbirth.
Increase the risk that your baby is born prematurely and/or born with low birth weight.
Increase your baby’s risk of developing respiratory (lung) problems.
Increases risks of birth defects.
Increases risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
The more cigarettes you smoke per day, the greater your baby’s chances of developing these and other health problems. There is no “safe” level of smoking while pregnant.
Benefits of stopping smoking in pregnancy
Stopping smoking will benefit both you and your baby immediately. Harmful gases like carbon monoxide and other damaging chemicals will clear from your body. When you stop smoking:
You will have less morning sickness and fewer complications in pregnancy.
You are more likely to have a healthier pregnancy and a healthier baby.
You will reduce the risk of stillbirth.
You will cope better with the birth.
Your baby is less likely to be born too early and have to face the additional breathing, feeding and health problems that often go with being premature.
Your baby is less likely to be born underweight: babies of women who smoke are, on average, 200g (about 8oz) lighter than other babies, who can cause problems during and after labour, for example they are more likely to have a problem keeping warm and are more prone to infection. You will reduce the risk of cot death, also called sudden infant death.
Stopping smoking will also benefit your baby later in life. Children whose parents smoke are more likely to suffer from asthma and other more serious illnesses that may need hospital treatment.
The sooner you stop smoking, the better. But even if you stop in the last few weeks of your pregnancy this will benefit you and your baby.
Second-hand (passive) smoke harms your baby
Secondhand smoke (also called passive smoke or environmental tobacco smoke) is the combination of smoke from a burning cigarette and smoke exhaled by a smoker.
The smoke that burns off the end of a cigarette or cigar actually contains more harmful substances (tar, carbon monoxide, nicotine, and others) than the smoke inhaled by the smoker.
If you are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke while pregnant, you will have an increased chance of having a miscarriage, stillbirth, tubal pregnancy, low birth weight baby, and other complications of pregnancy.
Babies and children exposed to secondhand smoke may also develop asthma, allergies, more frequent lung and ear infections, and are at higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
If your health isn’t enough to make you quit smoking, then the health of your baby should be. Smoking during pregnancy affects you and your baby’s health before, during, and after your baby is born. The nicotine (the addictive substance in cigarettes), carbon monoxide, and numerous other poisons you inhale from a cigarette are carried through your bloodstream and go directly to your baby.