Why should I stop smoking if I’m pregnant?
Cigarettes contain more than 4,000 chemicals. When you smoke, the chemicals stop oxygen and essential nutrients from reaching your unborn baby. This affects:
- your baby’s heart, making it work harder
- your baby’s growth rate
- the development of your baby’s brain
Effects on your baby’s health
If you smoke during pregnancy, your baby:
- is at increased risk of stillbirth
- is more likely to be born early (prematurely; before week 37 of the pregnancy), which can cause feeding, breathing and health problems
- won’t cope as well with any birth complications
- is more likely to be born underweight. On average, babies of smokers are 200g (8oz) lighter than other babies
- is more likely to have a problem keeping warm
- is at increased risk of cot death
- is more likely to get infections as a child, such as inflammation of the middle ear, and have health conditions that require hospital treatment, such as asthma
- is more likely to smoke when they’re older
Low birth weight in babies is also linked to problems that develop as an adult, such as:
- coronary heart disease: when your heart’s blood supply is blocked
- type 2 diabetes: a condition caused by too much glucose in the blood
Effects on your health
If you smoke during pregnancy:
- you’re more likely to have morning sickness
- you’re more likely to have complications during the pregnancy – for example, an ectopic pregnancy (when a fertilised egg implants itself outside the womb)
- your risk of miscarriage is increased
- you’re at increased risk of placental abruption (when the placenta detaches from your womb before your baby is born), which is dangerous for you and your baby
- you won’t cope as well with the birth
Smoking also increases your risk of:
- cancer: nine out of ten cases of lung cancer are caused by smoking
- heart disease: smokers are twice as likely to have a heart attack than people who have never smoked
The sooner you stop smoking, the better, but it’s never too late. Even stopping in the last few weeks of your pregnancy can benefit you and your child.
For free help, support and advice on stopping smoking, you can call the confidential NHS Pregnancy smoking helpline on 0800 1699 169. They can also send you a free Smokefree Pregnancy Support DVD. The helpline is open Monday-Friday 11am-6pm.
You can also speak to your:
- health visitor
- practice nurse
They can provide information about your local NHS Stop Smoking Service. This service offers one-to-one or group sessions with trained stop smoking advisers. Some services may also have a pregnancy stop smoking specialist.
The Go Smokefree website has more information about smoking and pregnancy.
Published Date 2010-12-15
Last Review Date 2010-07-21