Smoking During Pregnancy Effects On The Fetus
If you are pregnant, every time you smoke a cigarette, it cuts down oxygen to your unborn baby and exposes them to a cocktail of chemicals, including chemicals that cause cancer.
Some of the many damaging effects of cigarette smoke on the fetus include:
- reduced oxygen supply due to carbon monoxide and nicotine
- delayed growth and development
- increased risk of cleft lip and cleft palate
- impaired development and working of the placenta
- changes in the babys brain and lungs.
What The Research Says
Statistics gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tell us that:
- Approximately 10% of women reported smoking during the final trimester.
- Of those who smoked three months before getting pregnant, 55% quit during their pregnancy, but the relapse rate within six months of delivery was 40%.
If you are planning to get pregnant or you’re already pregnant and you smoke, take the important step towards quitting by finding the resources and support that works for you. It’s worth every bit of work it takes to quit smoking, both to give your child the best possible start in life that you can and to live long and healthfully yourself.
If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
Having Support Helps You Quit
Smoking is very addictive and it can be very difficult to stop, even if you really want to. But if your partner continues smoking, you are less likely to quit. Smokers who get support from family and friends are more likely to stop.
Smoking can cause fertility problems in men. It can:
- reduce the quality of semen
- cause the semen to have a lower sperm count
- affect the sperms normal swimming patterns
- cause male sexual impotence .
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How Can Smoking Affect Your Baby
When you smoke during pregnancy, chemicals like nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar pass through the placenta and umbilical cord to your baby.
These chemicals are harmful to your baby. They can lessen the amount of oxygen that your baby gets. This can slow your babys growth before birth and can damage your babys lungs and brain.
If you smoke during pregnancy, your baby is more likely to:
- Be born prematurely, before 37 weeks of pregnancy
- Have birth defects, including birth defects in a babys mouth called cleft lip or cleft palate. Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth. They change the shape or function of one or more parts of the body. Birth defects can cause problems in overall health, how the body develops or how the body works.
- Have low birthweight. This means your baby is born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces.
- Die before birth from miscarriage or stillbirth. Miscarriage is when a baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Stillbirth is when a baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
- Die of sudden infant death syndrome . SIDS is the unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year old. SIDS usually happens when a baby is sleeping. Its sometimes called crib death because the baby often dies in his crib.
If you smoke and are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant, tell your provider. Your provider can help you quit.
What Do I Need To Know
Smoking during pregnancy harms both you and your baby. It can cause complications during your pregnancy and affect your babys development.
Quitting smoking before or during your pregnancy, or even after the baby is born, is the best way to protect your baby and yourself. Both you and your baby will benefit straight away.
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Secondhand Smoke Harms Your Baby
If your partner or anyone else who lives with you smokes, their smoke can affect you and your baby before and after their birth. You may also find it more difficult to stop if someone around you smokes.
Secondhand smoke can also reduce your baby’s birthweight and increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome , also known as “cot death”. Babies whose parents smoke are more likely to be admitted to hospital for bronchitis and pneumonia during their first year.
To find out more about quitting and to get support, your partner can call the NHS Smokefree helpline on from 9am to 8pm Monday to Friday, and 11am to 4pm Saturday and Sunday.
A Effects On Gestation And The Newborn
As with humans, studies in monkeys and sheep demonstrate that acute nicotine exposure has cardiovascular effects on both the mother and fetus. However, these effects require extremely high doses of nicotine and do not support the uteroplacental insufficiency model . Using osmotic pumps during gestation, it has been demonstrated in a number of studies that whereas chronic nicotine exposure during pregnancy reduces maternal weights, it usually does not affect fetal growth . In other studies, signs of gestational toxicity in the form of fetal resorption and intrauterine growth retardation are described . However, in these studies a dose of 6 mg/kg*day free base was used, that may lead to maternal mean nicotine levels of approximately 80 ng/ml and thus exceed the levels found in the most heavy smokers. In a study which compared the effects of nicotine and epinephrine it was concluded that both had similar effects on uterine blood flow and reduced maternal weight gain without affecting fetal growth . It therefore appears that fetal birth weight is only moderately affected by a dose of 6 mg/kg*day nicotine bitartrate, and has no effect at lower doses.
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What If I Smoked Cigarettes Before I Found Out I Was Pregnant
Be sure your doctor knows you smoked before you conceived and early on in the pregnancy, but dont be too worried. The good news is that if you stop smoking early in your pregnancy, you may be able to radically reduce the risk of harm to your baby.
In fact, a recent study found that women who quit smoking no later than the third month can eliminate all of the associated risks.
The most important thing to do now is to get serious about your health and prenatal care and that includes quitting smoking. So get some help nixing that nicotine fix.
How Can Quitting Help You And Your Baby
The best time to quit smoking is before you get pregnant, but quitting at any time during pregnancy can help your baby get a better start on life. Talk to your doctor about the best ways to quit while youre pregnant or trying to get pregnant.
When you stop smoking:1
- Your baby gets more oxygen, even after just 1 day.
- Your baby will grow better.
- Your baby is less likely to be born too early.
- Youll have more energy and breathe more easily.
- You will be less likely to develop heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, lung disease, and other smoking-related diseases.
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What Are The Risks Of Smoking While Breastfeeding
If you smoke while breastfeeding you risk:
- lowering your supply of breast milk
- your baby being exposed to nicotine through your breast milk
- burning your baby with hot ash
- affecting your baby’s development
If you do smoke while breastfeeding, then it is better to wait until after you have fed your baby rather than before or during a feed. This will minimise your baby’s exposure to nicotine and other chemicals in tobacco smoke.
What Happens If I Keep Smoking After My Baby Is Born
If you continue to smoke after your baby is born, you increase his or her chance of developing certain illnesses and problems, such as:
- Frequent colds
- Lower your risk of developing lung, throat, mouth, pancreatic, and bladder cancer.
- Lower your risk of developing breathing problems such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease , asthma, and emphysema.
- Lower your risk of developing allergies.
- Raise your energy level.
- Improve your appearance. Your skin will wrinkle less and look better, and your fingers and teeth will not be yellow.
- Improve your sense of smell and taste.
- Feel healthier overall, with improved self-esteem.
- Save a lot of money .
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Health Effects Of Smoking And Secondhand Smoke On Pregnancies
- Women who smoke have more difficulty becoming pregnant and have a higher risk of never becoming pregnant.2,4
- Smoking during pregnancy can cause tissue damage in the unborn baby, particularly in the lung and brain, and some studies suggests a link between maternal smoking and cleft lip.1,2
- Studies also suggest a relationship between tobacco and miscarriage. Carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke can keep the developing baby from getting enough oxygen. Tobacco smoke also contains other chemicals that can harm unborn babies.1,2
I May Already Be Pregnant Am I Too Late To Stop Smoking
No. Its never too late. Every extra day your baby develops in the womb without poisons from cigarette smoke will make a big difference to your health in pregnancy and beyond.
Stopping smoking during pregnancy reduces the risk of your baby being ill in the first month of life.
This does not mean that smoking in the first trimester is safe. The earlier you stop smoking the healthier you and your baby will be.
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Measurements At Birth And Maternal Smoking
Compared with unexposed fetuses, fetuses whose mothers smoked when first pregnant had lower birth weight p< 0.001), shorter crownheel length and smaller occipitofrontal circumference , p=0.001). There was no relationship between birth weight, length or head circumference and tertile of maternal daily cigarette consumption in either the first or third trimester. Compared with the group who continued smoking during the first trimester, birth weight and length but not head circumference were greater in infants whose mothers quit after becoming pregnant . There were no differences between infants whose mothers reduced and continued smoking .
Mean differences and 95% CIs between anthropometric measurements at birth in infants whose mothers quit or reduced smoking compared with infants whose mothers did not change their cigarette consumption after the first trimester
How Does Smoking Affect Fertility
Smoking can cause fertility problems for you or your partner. Women who smoke have more trouble getting pregnant than women who dont smoke. In men, smoking can damage sperm and contribute to impotence . Both problems can make it harder for a man to father a baby when he and his partner are ready.3, 4
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Ascertainment Of Smoking And Alcohol Use
At the time of enrollment, mothers were asked by the research assistant if they had smoked at any time during pregnancy and if they had consumed alcohol at any time during pregnancy. In addition, about half of the women enrolled in the study were given a substance abuse questionnaire, which was administered by a member of the medical staff . Answers to this questionnaire are included in the mothersâ medical records. Acknowledgement of smoking or alcohol use from either source was taken as evidence for exposure.
Can Smoking Increase My Likelihood Of Dying From Prostate Cancer
Yes, smoking can increase your likelihood of dying from prostate cancer.3 The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system and produces a fluid that forms part of the semen. Prostate cancer begins in the prostate.
If you have prostate cancer and smoke, you may be more likely to die from the disease than those with prostate cancer who dont smoke.3
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Can I Cut Down Instead Of Stopping Altogether
Even low levels of smoking can make getting pregnant more difficult and is harmful to your pregnancy. Smoking 1-5 cigarettes a day, for example is a risk factor for ectopic pregnancy. Smoking less cigarettes does nothing to bring down the the risk of premature birth or low birth-weight.
Low-tar or low nicotine cigarettes are just as harmful to you and your babys health.
If you stop smoking before becoming pregnant then all your risks will become as low as for women who have never smoked.
Stopping smoking is better for your health and your babies health. Most women quit before pregnancy. If you are trying for a baby, quitting smoking altogether is the best thing you can do.
Can I Use Nicotine Replacement Therapy To Quit
Nicotine is very addictive and it is common to have strong cravings for cigarettes and withdrawal symptoms such as restlessness and irritability.
If you are really struggling to quit, you might consider nicotine replacement therapy . Licensed NRT products ease the withdrawal symptoms by giving you small amounts of nicotine but without the harmful toxins and chemicals you get from smoking tobacco.
NRT products include:
- spray for your nose
Nicotine replacement therapy can be bought from pharmacies and some shops. It’s also available on prescription from a doctor or NHS stop smoking service. (jump link to more support and information.
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Getting Pregnant While Smoking
Conceiving doesnt always happen the first time you and your partner have sex without protection in attempts of having a baby. Some couples truly struggle for a long time in conceiving a baby, no matter how many times they try not everyone is fertile. It can sometimes take weeks, months, or years depending on your fertility to conceive a baby.
You may have even more trouble trying to conceive a child because youre a smoker, because it can take longer for smokers to successfully conceive a baby. Your chances of never being able to conceive a baby are also higher from all the dangerous chemicals that youre putting into your body.
Factors Associated With Maternal Smoking Status
There were differences across five maternal smoking groups for age at starting smoking , SIMD and number of cigarettes smoked in the first and third trimester . There was no difference in the daily alcohol intake for mothers who smoked in the first trimester . The median number of cigarettes smoked per day in the first trimester was 15 . In the third trimester 1377 questionnaires were returned the median number of cigarettes smoked daily was 10 and 229 mothers currently smoked, 182 of whom had reduced cigarette consumption in the first trimester, 30 had not changed cigarette consumption since becoming pregnant and 17 had previously quit in the first trimester .
Comparison of maternal characteristics across the five smoking groups
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Pregnancy Complications From Smoking
Some of the pregnancy complications more commonly experienced by women who smoke include:
- ectopic pregnancy this is pregnancy outside the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube
- fetal death death of the baby in the uterus
- spontaneous abortion known as miscarriage
- problems with the placenta, including early detachment from the uterine wall and blocking the cervical opening
- premature rupture of the membranes
- premature labour.
How Do I Stop Smoking
If you’re finding it difficult to quit smoking, it’s really important to get help.
Local Stop Smoking Services are free and delivered by professionals who provide expert advice, support and encouragement to help you stop smoking.
There is also plenty support available online and by phone to help you stop smoking.
NHS SmokefreeThis website offers advice, tips on how to stop smoking and information and support, along with a free Quit Kit and other resources. There are also success stories to boost your resolve and help you keep on track. As well as visiting the website you can call the free Smokefree helpline on 0300 123 1044.
Action on Smoking and Health ASH is a charity that works to raise awareness about tobacco use and campaigns for ways to eliminate the damage caused by smoking. You can find information about different aspects of smoking and quitting, along with links to more stop smoking websites.
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Pharmacological Actions Of Nicotine
The causative agent for the adverse effects of maternal smoking during gestation have been difficult to elucidate as cigarette smoke contains thousands of biologically active compounds, some of which are known to be fetal toxins , metals and nicotine).
The adverse effects on the fetus of maternal smoking are likely to be multi-factorial, including indirect effects such as poor nutritional status of the mother associated with the anorexigenic effect of nicotine, carbon monoxide exposure, and blood flow restriction to the placenta due to the vasoconstrictive effects of catecholamines released from the adrenals and nerve cells after nicotine activation. Direct effects on nicotinic acetylcholine receptors , which are present and functional very early in the fetal brain are also likely to contribute.
Due to the pH of the cigarette smoke, only small amounts of nicotine are absorbed through the buccal mucosa . In contrast, nicotine is rapidly absorbed when the tobacco smoke reaches the small airways and alveoli of the lung. This causes a quick rise in blood nicotine concentrations, but due to the eventual burnout of the cigarette, these levels also peak early and thereafter drop to lower levels . Alternative sources of nicotine can be divided into two distinct groups: a) pure nicotine products , and b) smokeless tobacco .
Miscarriage Stillbirth And Ectopic Pregnancy
Smoking during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, and ectopic pregnancy.
One study found that people who smoked while pregnant were 41% more likely to experience stillbirth when compared to people who didn’t smoke while pregnant.
Research strongly suggests that the risk of stillbirth is also increased if you are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke during pregnancy.
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