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Stopping Smoking Due to Pregnancy

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 25 Jun 2010 | comments*Discuss
Pregnancy; Foetus; Development; Low

Never has there been a better time to give up smoking than during pregnancy. Apart from being harmful to the mother it can have significant consequences on the developing foetus and cause complications during the birth.

Affects On Fertility

Smoking can affect both potential mothers and father’s fertility. Hormones in women can become affected by cigarette smoke and the blood supply to the penis of men can become restricted; this can affect the amount of sperm produced and the way in which they move. Both factors can affect a person’s chances of becoming pregnant.

Smoking can also influence a doctor’s decision in whether IVF is an option.

Consequences of Smoking to the Developing Foetus

During development, a foetus receives all of its nutritional intake and oxygen from the mother via the placenta and umbilical cord. As smoking causes changes in the mothers blood supply, including a decrease in oxygen and an increase in carbon monoxide, the baby receives this blood supply also. As there is a marked decrease in oxygen, the baby often grows more slowly resulting in a lower birth weight than average, has smaller organs at birth, often arrives early after a premature labour and is likely to have poor lung function. These attributes can cause the baby to require treatment in a special care baby unit or even in paediatric intensive care. Low birth weight has been linked to many developmental and physical disorders found in the child’s later life.

Smoking during pregnancy can also cause the baby to be stillborn as the substances found in cigarettes can cause the placenta to detach prematurely from the wall of the uterus; this is called a placental abruption and if the placenta has no contact with the uterine wall, the baby will not be receiving any oxygen or nutrients. During these occasions often an emergency caesarean section is required, though not all babies survive.

Affects To The Newborn Infant

Newborns that have grown in the womb of a smoker seem to have an increased risk of developing sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Babies born to smokers also seem to have an increased risk of poor health in the first year of life, often requiring a stay in hospital. Many develop breathing disorders such as asthma and statistics also indicate an increased risk of forming inflammatory disorders.

Children of smokers often grow up to become smokers themselves, continuing these risks to their children.

Affects On The Expectant Mother

As oxygen levels are decreased, the pregnant woman may experience a more difficult labour as they find it difficult to maintain a steady and deep breathing pattern. They may also become out of breath very early on in the delivery of the baby and find the experience feels too much for them.

If anaesthetic is indicated either for a caesarean section, delivery of the placenta or to repair a vaginal tear, there are great risks to a smoker if they wish to receive a general anaesthetic.

Women who smoke are more likely to experience a miscarriage than a non-smoker and they may have trouble conceiving again.


  • Make a plan of when and how you are going to stop. Stick to the plan.

  • Join a support group to help you through the first stages of withdrawal.

  • Remember that withdrawal symptoms usually ease off after 72 hours after your last cigarette.

  • Tell your midwife, they will be able to discuss the various options available to you.

  • Decide whether you want to use some form of nicotine replacement therapy or whether you are going to go ‘cold turkey’ until some degree of control is gained.

  • Encourage others to give-up with you, this will help spur you on.

  • Gather support from your family and ask them to help you; apologise for any snappiness or arguments in advance!

Think about and write down your goals, use realistic measures, and treat yourself every time you achieve one.It is never too late to think about giving-up smoking in pregnancy. Every week the growing baby gains weight, so give your child the best chance to have a happy and healthy infancy and childhood.

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