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Smoking While Pregnant: Risks, Stories & How to Quit

last year8 min read
Last updated: Jan 20 2023

What are the effects of smoking while pregnant? Well, we don’t want to go in hard on the horror stories, but smoking and pregnancy are two things that are best left unmixed.

Effects of Smoking While Pregnant: Risks, Stories & How to Quit

In this blog, we’ll give you a little sense of why.

And we know it can be super tough to do, but we’ll give you some tips on how to quit smoking while pregnant too.

In this article: 📝

  • How bad is smoking while pregnant?
  • How many cigarettes can a pregnant woman smoke?
  • What happens to a baby when the mother smokes?
  • What are the effects of smoking while pregnant on the mother?
  • How do I quit smoking while pregnant?

How bad is smoking while pregnant?

Smoking while pregnant is something that all medical professionals will tell you to avoid.











You’ve probably heard this already, but it’s pretty harmful.

It’s bad for your body and, as your baby is dependent on your body during this time, it’s bad for their body too.

Of course, with smoking during pregnancy – or smoking at all – it’s not guaranteed with absolute certainty that bad things will happen.

But continuing to smoke (while pregnant, but also outside pregnancy) does make the risk of bad things happening much higher.

How many cigarettes can a pregnant woman smoke?

Even one cigarette a day while pregnant increases the risk of medical problems, developmental issues, and other health issues.

One cigarette is not as bad as ten (or more), but there is no safe lower limit on the number of cigarettes you can smoke.

So, yep, even one is a no-go.

Is it OK to smoke a little while pregnant?

No, even just one cigarette a day can affect baby’s development and increase the risk of SIDS and birth differences.

It’s best to quit before you even start trying to conceive or as soon as you find out you’re pregnant.

What happens to a baby when the mother smokes?

So, what are the possible effects of smoking during pregnancy for baby?

During this time, because you two are sharing a body, what you do to your body will affect your little peanut, too.

While there’s no certainty that these things will happen, here’s what can possibly happen to a baby when mama smokes:

  • There’s a greater chance of low birth weight. One in five babies born to mamas who mix pregnancy and smoking are born underweight. Luckily, doctors are usually well-equipped to handle this – but it can still lead to further complications.
  • Baby might have weaker lungs because of smoking. This means they may have breathing difficulties as a newborn, and possibly even later on in their life.
  • When a mama smokes during pregnancy – or after birth – there’s a greater risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
  • There’s an increased risk of a cleft lip or other birth differences.
  • You’re more likely to have a preterm birth if you smoke while pregnant. Smoking while pregnant increases the chances of an early birth.

At what stage of pregnancy does smoking affect the baby?

Smoking during pregnancy can affect baby’s development from the moment they’re a fertilized egg.

Unfortunately, smoking even in early pregnancy can increase the chances of pregnancy loss.

Does smoking affect baby in first trimester?

Yes, smoking in the first trimester can affect baby’s development.

However, it’s still quite early to affect their fetal length (or CRL ‒ crown-rump length, as it’s called in this study) or fetal movements.

But smoking in the first trimester can still increase the risk of baby being born with a birth difference, premature birth, low birth weight, or even SIDS.

What birth defects are caused by smoking?

There are a few birth differences linked with smoking while pregnant ‒ according to this study, these were some birth differences or anomalies that are more prevalent in babies born to smoking mothers during pregnancy:

  • Cardiovascular and heart issues
  • Musculoskeletal issues
  • Limb reduction anomalies
  • Missing or extra digits
  • Clubfoot
  • Craniosynostosis
  • Facial differences
  • Eye anomalies
  • Orofacial clefts
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Gastroschisis
  • Anal atresia
  • Hernia
  • Undescended testes

What are the effects of smoking while pregnant on the mother?

Smoking affects baby – but it also harms you.

Here are some of the things that mamas who smoke are risking.

Again, they’re not guaranteed, but the risk is higher.

  • Heart disease, lung disease, cancer, and other illnesses.
  • Ectopic pregnancy. This is when the fertilized eggs implants outside of the uterus. It can be life-threatening, so doctors try to remove the embryo before it grows.
  • Placental abruption. The placenta is the thing that forms during pregnancy to supply the fetus with oxygen and energy as it grows. Smoking increases the chances of it separating from the uterus – which can be very serious.
  • Miscarriage. Smoking while pregnant increases the chances of pregnancy loss.

How do I quit smoking while pregnant?

The possible effects of smoking while pregnant can be tough to hear.

The only way to avoid them is to quit.

That might be easier said than done, of course.

But millions of mamas have managed it – and if they can, so can you.

Here are some tips from our Peanut community of moms who used to smoke on how they quit the stick:

  • In an ideal world, quit while you’re planning to have a baby. If you’re planning to have a child, it might help to set a date to quit smoking before pregnancy. As there’s already a lot going on while pregnant, it might be more of a challenge to focus on quitting.” ‒ Tracey
  • Make sure you’re honest with your doctors and midwife. They are on your side and will do all they can to help you. Don’t worry about judgment, be honest so you can do what’s best for you and baby.” ‒ Andii
  • “I just cut down and then managed to stop after a week ‒ I think it’s because I was feeling too sick to want to smoke! I do have a vape which is 0% nicotine that I use if I do want to smoke.” ‒ Abbie
  • I stopped one habit at a time. First I stopped smoking in my house, then I stopped smoking in my car, then I stopped smoking after meals, then I stopped taking smoke breaks at work. Eventually, I had two packs of cigarettes left, and decided after those I would be done smoking.” ‒ Miranda
  • Right now is always the best time to stop. Quitting at any stage of your pregnancy will bring health benefits for you and your baby. If you’ve not managed to quit smoking fully in the first week, it’s still worth trying hard to stop for the rest of your pregnancy.” ‒ Charlene
  • What helped me most was distraction. Smoking is a habit and I used to do it at particular times, when I got in the car or after eating, so I’d have a mint or brush my teeth instead. Keep your hands busy if you can and wash all your clothes to remove the smell of cigarettes ‒ you don’t realize how bad it smells until you’ve completely eliminated it from your house!” ‒ Hollie
  • Try nicotine replacement. If you’re struggling to kick the habit, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) can help. You might want to try patches, gum, sprays, or lozenges.” ‒ Vanessa
  • Lots of water and/or tea to help detox. Exercise more than usual to help you naturally produce a high.” ‒ Michelle
  • Keep a cigarette in your mouth but never light it, I’ve had a few friends quit that way, they just pretend puffed, also, when you crave just chug a bottle of water.” ‒ Jaz
  • “You are stronger than you think you are. I would start by not smoking the first one of the morning. I used to smoke first thing with my coffee. Go as long as you can before you smoke one. You got this mama.” ‒ Rebecca
  • If your partner smokes, quit together. It may be even tougher to quit if someone else in your house smokes. Supporting each other through the change can be helpful.” ‒ Susan
  • Get in touch with smokefree.gov. The US agency will give you a free quit-smoking plan – and lots of free tools to help.” ‒ Katie
  • I would suck air through a straw when I first found out I was pregnant!” ‒ Annie
  • “I stopped the next day after finding out, but did so by using nicotine lozenges. It’s not ideal but I’ve managed to get it down to 4 per day and plan on stopping completely soon. The NHS website says it’s much safer than actually smoking, but not a great idea to continue it for too long.” ‒ Holly

The harmful effects of smoking while pregnant are real.

But quitting, whatever stage of pregnancy you’re at, will help.

And if you want some support from moms and moms-to-be who know what you’re going through, join us on Peanut.

You’ve got this, mama!

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