Protecting your baby from cigarette smoke is one of the best things you can do for your baby’s health. The earlier you stop the better, but it's never too late to quit.
It can be difficult to stop smoking. Getting support can boost your chances of quitting for good. Your doctor or midwife can tell you what help and advice is available.
Don’t be afraid to tell your midwife or doctor about your smoking habit. They are not there to judge you. Their priority is to help you have a safe and healthy pregnancy.
Stop smoking advisers in pregnancy
There is clear evidence that the most effective way to quit smoking is with expert behavioural support from local stop smoking services combined with stop smoking aids.
Local stop smoking services are free of charge and have trained advisers who can give you one-to-one help and support. Depending on where you live, this may be at a clinic, in your home, or over the phone. Many also offer group sessions. You can take a friend or partner if helpful.
At your first meeting the adviser will ask about your smoking, including:
- how long you have been a smoker
- how much you smoke
- when you have your first cigarette of the day
- if you live with any other smokers.
This will help them understand your smoking habits and any concerns you have about quitting.
Together, you can decide how and when you want to stop smoking. The adviser can give you information on treatments and other ways to manage any cravings.
Even if you have tried to quit many times in the past, the advisers will be keen to help. They know giving up smoking can be hard, so they won’t judge you or try to make you feel guilty. They are there to give you expert information and support, and to help you find the way that works best for you.
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) in pregnancy
You can use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) during pregnancy if it will help you stop smoking and you're unable to stop without it.
NRT contains nicotine, but none of the damaging chemicals found in cigarettes. It helps by giving you the nicotine you would have from a cigarette.
You can be prescribed NRT during pregnancy by a GP or an NHS stop smoking adviser. You can also buy it over the counter without a prescription from a pharmacy.
Speak to a midwife, GP, a pharmacist or a specialist stop smoking adviser before using any of these products.
NRT is available as:
- nasal spray
- mouth spray
- oral strips
Patches may be better for you if you have pregnancy sickness (morning sickness).
NRT patches should be used for no more than 16 hours in any 24-hour period. The best way to remember this is to remove the patch at bedtime.
Stop smoking tablets
Stop smoking tablets such as Champix (varenicline) or Zyban (bupropion) are not recommended during pregnancy and are not currently available.
Liquorice-flavoured nicotine products
Try to avoid liquorice-flavoured nicotine products. There is no known risk associated with liquorice flavouring. But liquorice root is not recommended in pregnancy, so it is best to avoid liquorice-flavouring to be on the safe side.
Can I use e-cigarettes to help me quit?
There has not been much research into the safety of e-cigarettes in pregnancy.
They do not produce tar or carbon monoxide, the 2 main toxins in cigarette smoke. Carbon monoxide is particularly harmful to developing babies.
The vapour from an e-cigarette contains some of the potentially harmful chemicals found in cigarette smoke, but at much lower levels. It is not known whether the vapour is harmful to a baby in pregnancy.
If using an e-cigarette helps you to stop smoking, it is much safer for you and your baby than continuing to smoke. But licensed nicotine replacement therapy products such as patches and gum are the recommended option to help you stop smoking. E-cigarettes are not currently available on the NHS.
More information and support
QUIT is a charity that has professional advisers, along with tips, tools and ideas to help you quit smoking. You can also call their free helpline on 0800 00 22 00.
Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is a charity that works to raise awareness and reduce tobacco use. They have information about smoking and quitting, along with links to other stop smoking websites.
NHS Quit Smoking app provides a 28-day programme that guides you through your first weeks without cigarettes. The advice, practical support and encouragement can help you stop smoking for good.
Find out more about local NHS stop smoking services.