Smoking and Pregnancy

For women who are pregnant, stopping smoking is the single most important thing they can do to protect their health and the health of their baby.

Tobacco smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of the mother having complications during pregnancy and the baby being born with low birthweight. Carbon Monoxide and other contents of cigarettes have harmful effects on the baby’s growth and development.

Medical research has shown that: 

  • Smoking makes it harder for a woman to get pregnant.
  • Women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely than other women to have a miscarriage.
  • Smoking can cause problems with the placenta—the source of the baby’s food and oxygen during pregnancy. For example, the placenta can separate from the womb too early, causing bleeding, which is dangerous to the mother and baby.
  • Smoking during pregnancy can cause a baby to be born too early or to have low birth weight—making it more likely the baby will be sick and have to stay in the hospital longer. Low birth weight is associated with a greatly increased risk of death in the first year of life as well as serious illness and lifelong disability.
  • Smoking during and after pregnancy is a risk factor of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is an infant death for which a cause of the death cannot be found.
  • Babies born to women who smoke are more likely to have certain birth defects, like a cleft lip or cleft palate.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US have developed a fact sheet on smoking in pregnancy which is available here.

If you are pregnant or trying to support someone who is pregnant to quit smoking you can direct them to their local smoking cessation service or the National QUIT service and/or to information on smoking and pregnancy here

All practitioners who are engaging with pregnant women should complete and record interventions for health behaviour change as well as carbon monoxide monitoring as part of routine ante natal care. For further information on training in brief interventions for health behaviour change (Making Every Contact Count) click here.