How does smoking affect pregnancy?

You’ve probably heard people say “you can’t smoke if you’re pregnant!”, but why is that exactly? In this article we’ll share some of the ways in which smoking can affect pregnancy and why you should stop smoking if you are carrying a child to prevent any health complications for you and the baby. 

Smoking is addictive, but when you smoke, harmful gases such as carbon monoxide enter your body, which can lead to health issues for both you and your child. 

Here's why you should stop smoking...

1. There’s an increased risk of stillbirth

Stillbirth is when a baby dies before they’re born, after 24 weeks of pregnancy.Whilst some of the causes behind stillbirth are still unknown, there are some factors which can increase the risk of stillbirth, including smoking. 

2. Your baby may be born premature

A premature birth is a birth which happens before the 37th week of pregnancy. Premature babies are more vulnerable and require special care in a hospital as they wouldn’t have fully developed in the womb. 

3. There’s an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

SIDS (also known as ‘cot death’) is a sudden and unexplained death of a baby which was known to be healthy. Whilst SIDS is rare, babies who are born prematurely or at a low birthweight are more at risk. As smoking can lead to premature births and low birth weights, stopping smoking will help to reduce the risk of SIDS and keep your child healthy. 

4. Your baby may be born with a low birth weight

According to the NHS, a baby born to a smoker will be approximately 200g lighter than other babies. Low birth weights can cause issues before and after birth, including:

  • The baby may have difficulty in staying warm
  • The baby may be more prone to infections and falling ill
  • The risk of SIDS is higher

If you stop smoking before becoming pregnant or during the first three months of pregnancy, your risk of giving birth to a low-weight baby is the same as that of a non-smoking person

5. Your child may suffer from asthma or other serious illnesses later in life

Smoking whilst pregnant or around a child can increase the chances of them developing illnesses and asthma - a condition affecting the lungs, making breathing difficult.   

How bad is secondhand smoke while pregnant? 

Secondhand smoke (also referred to as passive smoking) can also affect you and your baby, both before and after the birth. Here’s how secondhand smoke can impact your pregnancy:

  • It can reduce the baby’s birth weight
  • It can increase the risk of SIDS
  • The baby may develop bronchitis and pneumonia in their first year
  • Quitting smoking can be more difficult for you

If you’re pregnant and you live with someone who smokes, make sure that they’re aware of the impact of smoking on the pregnancy. If you need advice on how to speak to someone who smokes around you, we can offer you support. 

How to stop smoking when pregnant

1. Plan a new routine without cigarettes

It may be necessary to switch up your usual routine, for example, if you’d usually spend breaks at work outside smoking with a colleague, you should arrange a different activity - perhaps you could take a short walk and get active. If cigarettes were part of the same routine, you’ll find it much easier to cope if you’re distracting yourself at these times so you can create new, healthier habits. 

2. Try a nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)

If you are really struggling with quitting smoking, you can use an NRT over the course of your pregnancy. NRT is a better alternative to smoking because it doesn’t contain the dangerous chemicals in cigarettes (just the nicotine). You can be prescribed NRT when you’re pregnant by your GP or you can purchase it over the counter. 

You should be cautious of stopping smoking tablets such as Zyban as it is not recommended that pregnant women take these. 

3. Choose a date to stop smoking

If you’re a smoker and planning on getting pregnant, try to set a date to stop smoking which is going to work for you. If you’re already pregnant, you may be finding quitting difficult. Firstly, try to cut down on the amount of cigarettes you’re having and try to speak with a health professional to get the support you need in refraining from smoking whilst carrying a child. 

4. Remind yourself of the reasons why you’re quitting

There are so many benefits to quitting smoking, for both you and your baby. Remember that smoking won’t only be impacting your own health, it will take its toll on the health of your unborn child before and after birth. 

It can be helpful to write down all of the reasons why you’re quitting and place them somewhere you’ll often see them as reminders. 

5. Keep track of your progress

Keeping a diary and recording your progress in avoiding smoking as well as your thoughts and feelings over the course of the pregnancy can really help you to keep on track. Once you notice the benefits of quitting and realise that this is a process you can get through, you’ll find it easier to continue (and will hopefully ditch the cigarettes after giving birth too!). 

6. Remove temptation from your home

From lighters and cigarettes to ash trays, remove items used for smoking as well as any items which remind you of smoking from sight as if temptation isn’t around the corner, you’ll find it easier to resist. 

7. Avoid smoking areas and people smoking

Being around other smokers can make refraining from smoking more difficult for you. Keep well clear of smoking areas and let any smokers you spend time with know that you are trying to quit during your pregnancy. Not only will keeping away from smoke help to keep you on track, it will also prevent health risks associated with passive smoking. 

8. Reach out for help

Smoking is a tricky habit to quit, but you don’t have to do it alone. It can be a good idea to speak to a family member, partner or friend about quitting, but you can also seek help from a health professional, including our team here at LiveWell Dorset. 

When to stop smoking when pregnant

If you’re planning to get pregnant, you should quit smoking beforehand. If you are already pregnant and still smoking, you should try to stop smoking at the earliest opportunity to prevent any complications for you and your baby before and after birth. 

Essentially, the sooner you stop smoking whilst pregnant, the better. Even if you’re in your final weeks of pregnancy, stopping smoking now will help to decrease the risks. 

Final thoughts

Ultimately, whether you’re planning on getting pregnant or you are already pregnant, the time to stop smoking is now. The sooner you can stop smoking, the better your chances are of experiencing a normal birth and having a healthy child. 

Stopping smoking is no easy feat, but you can always get the support you need to stick to your goal of ditching cigarettes and improving the health of yourself whilst also protecting your baby. 

Looking to stop smoking? 

If you live in Dorset and you’d like support to stop smoking (whether you’re pregnant or not), we can help!

With a team of professional coaches and advisors on hand to guide you each step of the way, you can learn how to break your smoking habit with LiveWell Dorset. Simply register or have a chat with us today to start your journey to become smoke-free.


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