If you have been thinking about quitting smoking, pregnancy, or planning for pregnancy, can be the perfect opportunity.
Stopping smoking is the single most important thing you can do to protect your health. If you’re pregnant, or if you are thinking about trying to get pregnant, giving up will not only improve your own health, it will help to protect your baby too. Giving up cigarettes is one decision that will benefit two people.
You probably already know that stopping smoking will reduce your risk from serious illnesses, but it has extra benefits if you are pregnant. Women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to become ill, or suffer from bleeding or miscarriage.
Smoking and your baby
When you smoke a cigarette, all the poisonous substances you breathe in get into your bloodstream. From there, they enter your baby’s body as well. This means that you are both at risk from the health consequences of smoking.
Smoking increases the risk of a number of complications during pregnancy. Compared to non-smokers, smokers are:
- 25% more likely to have a miscarriage,
- up to three times more likely than non-smokers to develop a problem with the placenta
- babies born to mothers who smoke are 40% more likely to be stillborn than babies born to non-smokers
- smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of babies being born with eye disorders like strabismus (crossed eyes) and underdevelopment of the optic nerve, which is a leading cause of blindness in children.
Low birth weight
Smoking cuts down the amount of oxygen and other nutrients that get to your baby through the placenta. Your baby needs these to grow and develop, so babies of women who smoke tend to be smaller.
If you smoke through your pregnancy, on average your baby will be almost half a pound (200 to 250g) lighter than if you’d been a non-smoker. It may not sound like much, but size is critical. Smaller babies are more at risk of infections and other health problems throughout their lives.
Smoking during pregnancy or after the baby is born significantly increases the risk of cot death by up to three times. Some studies suggest that a quarter of all cot deaths are caused by smoking.
Asthma, wheezing and chest infections
Smoking while pregnant damages the development of the baby’s lungs. Babies born to women who smoke are more likely to develop asthma and are also at greater risk of other lung problems, such as wheezing and chest infections.
Children who live with at least one parent who smokes are nearly 50% more likely to suffer from ‘glue ear’, which can cause partial deafness.
Babies whose mothers smoke are twice as likely to suffer from infantile colic as those whose mother’s don’t smoke.
Passive smoking and your baby
Babies and children need to be protected from passive smoking, ideally by making your home a smoke free zone. Cigarette smoke can trigger asthma attacks or chest infections, but there are other dangers too.