Updated June 2014

Photo showing used cigarettes butts crushes in an ashtray

Smoking

Won't a smaller baby mean an easier labour and birth?

The sooner you can give up smoking the better. Smoking during pregnancy puts babies at risk. Smoking increases the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth and also means your baby can be born smaller and weaker. This does not necessarily mean that you will have an easier birth and your baby may have to stay in hospital after they are born. Find out more about the effects of smoking on your unborn baby.

Ask your doctor or midwife for advice; you may be able to see a specialist smoking cessation midwife. Or call the NHS specialist pregnancy smoking helpline on 0800 169 9 169.

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Do I really need to give up? My friends have smoked in pregnancy and their kids seem OK.

Smoking during pregnancy is thought to be the cause of 40 percent of baby deaths. Smoking also increases your risk of having a miscarriage delivering a low birth weight baby, or having a premature birth.

It also increases the risks to your child’s health after birth, with some studies showing that it makes your child more likely to develop a smoking problem in the future. Friends and family who have smoked throughout pregnancy may have delivered a seemingly healthy child, but the risks to your baby are serious.

I'm several months along. Is it too late to give up now?

Quitting smoking at any time during your pregnancy is the best thing you can do for you and your baby. In fact, giving up as late as three months pregnant reduces the chances of your baby having a low birth weight to almost the same level as a non-smoker.

Quitting later in pregnancy will still reduce your chances of low birth weight and will give your child a healthier start following the birth. Remember that every day you don’t smoke is one day's worth fewer toxins affecting your baby.

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If I give up smoking will I pile on the weight?

Some people do gain weight when they quit smoking. If you tend to smoke out of boredom, or as a way of taking a break, then it's easy to end up reaching for a snack instead.

Choose healthy snacks, such as carrot sticks or fruit. Get up and go for a  walk instead of a cigarette break. Eating healthily and keeping fit during pregnancy will help you have a healthy pregnancy, a safer birth and a healthier baby.

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Won't the stress of quitting be bad for the baby?

Quitting can be stressful, especially in pregnancy, but the stress won't be nearly as harmful to your baby as cigarette smoke. There is no question that it's better for your baby to quit, even if you find it hard.

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Can't I just cut down instead?

Cutting down is a good first step to giving up, but it won't do much to protect your baby by itself. Studies have shown that people who are trying to cut down actually inhale more deeply on the cigarettes in order to give their body the nicotine it wants. It is much better to try to quit than to try to cut down.

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I didn’t realise until I was two months pregnant and I’ve been smoking. Have I harmed my baby?

The sooner you can give up smoking the better. While not wanting to scare you, it is only fair that you understand that smoking during pregnancy does put babies at risk. Smoking increases the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth and also means your baby may be born smaller and weaker.

Ask your doctor or midwife for advice; you may be able to see a specialist smoking cessation midwife. Or call the NHS specialist pregnancy smoking helpline on 0800 169 9 169.

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I’ve tried to stop smoking before and it hasn’t worked. What should I do?

Firstly, don’t beat yourself up about it – most people find it difficult. Keep trying to quit smoking, but this time do it with professional advice and support to help you along the way. And this time you've got a better reason to give up than ever – your baby's health. See our Quitting smoking page for more information.

Parents' smoking is also linked to a large number of cot deaths, so give up now and encourage everyone in the house to do the same to protect your child.

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More frequently asked questions about pregnancy


Sources

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Quitting smoking in pregnancy and following childbirth, public health guideline 26, London NICE, 2010

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Smoking cessation - acute, maternity and mental health services, public health guideline 48, London NICE, 2013

Knopik VS et al, The epigenetics of maternal cigarette smoking during pregnancy and effects on child development, Development and Psychopathology 2012; 24(4): 1377–90

Rydell M et al, In-utero exposure to maternal smoking is not linked to tobacco use in adulthood after controlling for genetic and family influences: a Swedish sibling study, European Journal of Epidemiology 2014, [Epub ahead of print] doi:10.1007/s10654-014-9912-

McCowan LME et al, Spontaneous preterm birth and small for gestational age infants in women who stop smoking early in pregnancy: prospective cohort study, British Medical Journal 2009;  338: b1081

MacArthur C et al, Smoking in pregnancy: effects of stopping at different stages, British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology 1988;  95(6): 551–55

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Antenatal care: routine care for the healthy pregnant woman, clinical guideline 62, London NICE, 2008

Macdonald S, Magill-Cuerden J, Mayes’ midwifery, fourteenth edition, Edinburgh Bailliere Tindall Elsevier, 2012

UNICEF, Reduce the risk of cot death, London UNICEF, 2013. Also available at: http://www.unicef.org.uk/Documents/Baby_Friendly/Leaflets/Scotland_Reduce_the_Risk_of_Cot_Death_Leaflet.pdf (acessed 3 June 2014)

 

 

 

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