Effects of smoking during pregnancy

Advice on the effect that smoking during pregnancy has on your baby's development.
Everybody knows that smoking isn't good for you. But this is especially true during pregnancy when cigarettes can have a detrimental effect not only on your own health but also on the health of your developing baby. A significant body of research has been carried out specifically investigating the effects of smoking during pregnancy on infant health and development - here is a summary of the risks....
  • Miscarriage - smoking during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of miscarriage throughout
  • Lower birth weight - babies whose mothers smoked during pregnancy are born an average 1/2lb or 7oz smaller than those born to non-smokers. This effect is proportionate in that the more the mother smokes, the smaller the baby is likely to be.
  • Smaller organs - because of the decreased levels of oxygen babies born to smoking mothers receive, they tend to develop smaller organs which are less well equipped to deal with the outside world
  • Exposure to CO - when you smoke a cigarette carbon monoxide replaces some of the oxygen in your blood. This in turn deprives your baby of oxygen which can impair development and can play a role in low birth weight and other illnesses
  • Exposure to nicotine - nicotine is a stimulant and when inhaled causes your arteries to spasm and your blood pressure to rise - this restricts the flow of blood through the placenta, again depriving your baby of much needed oxygen
  • Placenta problems - a smoking pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of placenta praevia and placental abruption.
  • Ectopic pregnancy - there is a significant increase in the risk of ectopic pregnancy for smokers
  • Premature labour - mothers who smoke are more likely to go into labour before 37 weeks gestation
  • Cot death - infants exposed to cigarette smoke through pregnancy and beyond are at double the risk of SIDS
  • Breathing problems - infants born to smoking parents are at a significantly increased risk of asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory disorders throughout childhood
  • Learning difficulties - infants exposed to cigarette toxins in the womb are more likely to suffer from learning and attentional difficulties and hyperactivity disorders
  • Poor health - throughout childhood infants born to a smoking mother are significantly more likely to require hospital treatment and suffer from poor general health
  • Smokers - the children of parents who smoke are likely to smoke themselves during adulthood putting them at an increased risk of many diseases
Pregnancy is an incredibly fragile time and none of the 4000+ chemicals each cigarette contains are beneficial for your baby. In fact, expectant mothers who smoke are often found to be lacking in many essential nutrients, depriving themselves and their baby from good nutrition.

While the above information can be extremely worrying for a mum-to-be, it can be reassuring to know that as soon as you stop smoking the risks to your baby will be reduced and if you quit completely before the 14th week of your pregnancy the risks to your baby will return to non-smoker levels.

Giving up smoking isn't easy but even if you haven't managed it before, try and get all of the help and support you can to stop and the health of your baby will reap the rewards.

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Hi Jada - I hope everything went well with the birth of your baby. Giving up smoking can be very very hard and particularly in pregnancy (because your body metabolises everything more quickly - you are not just eating for one). Well done on cutting down because it shows you are committed to helping youself and your baby. It is really really hard to quit cold turkey. If you would still like to give up - and the advantages after birth are still really great - smokefree home etc then go to your doctor or phamacy and ask for nicotine replacement therapy (patches etc). If you are breastfeeding you can still use them because it is always better than smoking. If you contact your local Stop Smoking Service (via NHS) then they will probably have a specific support service for pregnant women and new mums. They can help you think about the things that make you smoke - like being around other smokers. Patches etc really help because they reduce the cravings but also planning really help. Good luck with it.
by Smokingsupport 15th Sep 2010, 11:56am
Hi im 37weeks Pregnant with my 1st, and yes it is imbarassing but i do smoke cigarettes before i fell pregnant atleast 12 a day but i have cut down to 6 a day. I smoke after each meal and before i go to bed, i have tried quitting but all it did was make me stress even more which from what i understand is no good for the baby, neither is smoking but i feel calm after i have a ciggy. I really dont want a small or unhealthy baby but how much damage can 6 cigaretts do? I want to give it up but being around smokers also is not helping...
by JadaHumphries 12th Aug 2010, 9:12am
I have a friend who is now 3 1/2 months pregnant and shes smoking,i told her she should stop now for a bunch of reason.she said that her other 2 boys were big and she wants this one to be smaller and that's why shes smoking.she tells me to "get off her case about it" i told her that the father of my child has asthma due to whatever reasons and just one of his asthma inhalers is 120.00.she didnt say much after that.i just think it looks horrible for a pregnant woman to be smoking.
by levibaby 27th Jan 2010, 9:39am