Effects of Smoking During Pregnancy
When a mother smokes, the chemicals within that cigarette reach the fetus through the placenta and umbilical cord. The nicotine in cigarettes narrow blood vessels throughout your body, reducing the amount of oxygen and essential nutrients your baby receives. A decrease in oxygen and increase in carbon monoxide to a developing fetus can cause long term health issues. Along with damage to the placenta, smoking affects your baby’s heart rate, growth rate and brain development.
Smoking also increases risks to the fetus. Smoking may cause placental insufficiency-your baby may receive an insufficient amount of nutrients needed for healthy growth and development. There is a higher risk of miscarriage as well as premature birth and lower birth weight. Preterm birth and low birth weight can cause breathing problems, feeding difficulties, cerebral palsy, developmental delay, vision impairment and childhood illnesses. Women who smoke are more likely to have a baby with an orofacial cleft than women who do not smoke.
The Benefits of Quitting Smoking
We encourage pregnant women who smoke to consider quitting for themselves, not simply for their babies.
Benefits of quitting for the woman: Decreased risk of many serious smoking-related illnesses (heart disease and stroke, lung cancer, respiratory disorders, cancer of the cervix, osteoporosis and other illnesses), ability to breathe better and cough less, increased energy levels, food tastes better, save money, clothes, hair and home will smell better, skin and nails won’t be stained, fewer wrinkles, healthier environment for everyone, and feeling great about overcoming addiction!
Benefits of quitting for the pregnancy: Baby will receive more oxygen; there will be a decreased risk of vaginal bleeding, premature delivery, placental abruption and previa, a decreased risk of miscarriage, more likely to have a full-term baby, and it is more likely that the baby will have a normal birth weight.
Benefits of quitting for the newborn child: The baby may have fewer colds, coughs and ear infections; may cry less; may have fewer asthma/wheezing problems; and may have an easier time breastfeeding.
While quitting smoking completely is the best approach, we understand it can be difficult. If pregnant women are not able to quit completely then they are encouraged to try to do their best to reduce their smoking intake as much as possible to reduce the risk of harm of the tobacco.
Myths and Facts
There are some common myths around smoking during pregnancy. We want you to have the facts, so here is the reality based on research and evidence. Some people may say that it’s too stressful to quit smoking when I’m pregnant. However the fact is that it’s normal to have stress in your life. Quitting smoking is about learning new healthy habits and ways to deal with stress without smoking.
Other people mistakenly believe that quitting cold turkey is dangerous to the baby. However the fact is that quitting smoking is always the healthiest choice, no matter how you quit.
We understand that pregnant women face a number of challenges when it comes to quitting smoking. In addition to the physical addiction that makes it hard to quit for any smoker, pregnant women may face stigma and feelings of guilt. They may feel that people around them have a negative view of pregnant women who smoke and this may contribute to feelings of guilt as they feel they aren’t able to “do the right thing”. As well, for some women, pregnancy may be a very stressful time as they consider all of the changes that are about to happen in their life. We strongly encourage pregnant women to speak to their healthcare provider about their efforts to quit smoking–a doctor, nurse or pharmacist or other healthcare provider is a source of valuable, helpful information. Other sources of support may include friends, family, and healthy baby clubs.
Nicotine replacement therapy (such as the nicotine gum, inhaler, lozenge and patch) may be considered if the woman have tried a variety of strategies with no success. These quit-smoking products may be used during pregnancy after the first trimester. Other quit-smoking medications (Champix and Zyban) may not be recommended during use during pregnancy since they have not yet been tested for this population. Pregnant women should speak with their doctor for more information.
For more information, practical tips, encouragement and support, connect with the Helpline.