How Smoking Affects You and Your Baby During Pregnancy
Smoking during pregnancy affects you and your baby's health before, during and after your baby is born. The nicotine (the addictive substance in cigarettes), carbon monoxide and numerous other poisons you inhale from a cigarette are carried through your bloodstream and go directly to your baby. Smoking while pregnant will:
- Lower the amount of oxygen available to you and your growing baby
- Increase your baby's heart rate
- Increase the chances of miscarriage and stillbirth
- Increase the risk that your baby is born prematurely and/or born with low birth weight
- Increase your baby's risk of developing respiratory problems
The more cigarettes you smoke per day, the greater your baby's chances of developing these and other health problems. There is no "safe" level of smoking for your baby's health.
How does secondhand smoke affect me and my baby?
Second-hand smoke (also called passive smoke or environmental tobacco smoke) is the combination of smoke from a burning cigarette and smoke exhaled by a smoker. The smoke that burns off the end of a cigarette or cigar contains more harmful substances (tar, carbon monoxide, nicotine and others) than the smoke inhaled by the smoker.
If you are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke, you increase your and your baby's risk of developing lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, allergies, asthma and other health problems. Babies exposed to second-hand smoke may also develop reduced lung capacity and are at higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
What happens if I keep smoking after my baby is born?
If you continue to smoke after your baby is born, you increase his or her chance of developing certain illnesses and problems, such as:
- Frequent colds
- Bronchitis and pneumonia
- Chronic coughs
- Ear infections
- High blood pressure
- Learning and behavior problems later in childhood
Why should I quit smoking?
Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. By quitting you can:
- Prolong your life
- Lower your risk of heart disease
- Lower your risk of developing lung, throat, mouth, pancreatic and bladder cancer
- Lower your risk of developing breathing problems such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma and emphysema
- Lower your risk of developing allergies
- Raise your energy level
- Improve your appearance; your skin will wrinkle less and look better, and your fingers and teeth will not be yellow
- Improve your sense of smell and taste
- Feel healthier overall, with improved self-esteem
- Save a lot of money (the average smoker spends $560 a year for cigarettes!)
How can I quit smoking?
There is no one way to quit smoking that works for everyone, since each person has different smoking habits. Here are some tips:
- Hide your matches, lighters and ashtrays.
- Take a deep breath and hold it for five to ten seconds whenever you get the urge to smoke.
- Designate your home a non-smoking area.
- Ask people who smoke not to smoke around you.
- Drink fewer caffeinated beverages; caffeine may stimulate your urge to smoke. Also avoid alcohol, as it also may increase your urge to smoke and can be harmful to your baby.
- Change your habits connected with smoking. If you smoked while driving or when feeling stressed, try other activities to replace smoking.
- Keep mints or gum (preferably sugarless) on hand for those times when you get the urge to smoke.
- Stay active to keep your mind off smoking and help relieve tension: take a walk, exercise, read a book or try a new a hobby.
- Look for support from others. Join a support group or smoking cessation program.
- Do not go places where many people are smoking such as bars or clubs, and smoking sections of restaurants.
What products can I buy to help me quit?
You can purchase nicotine gum or skin (transdermal) patches to help you quit smoking. These products release small amounts of nicotine into the bloodstream. When used as directed, these products are designed to slowly wean your body from nicotine and help you quit smoking. These products may be helpful, but you should seek the advice of your doctor before using them.
How will I feel when I quit?
The benefits of not smoking start within days of quitting. After you quit, you and your baby's heart beat will return to normal, and your baby will be less likely to develop breathing problems. You may have symptoms of withdrawal because your body is used to nicotine, the addictive substance in cigarettes. You may crave cigarettes, be irritable, feel very hungry, cough often, get headaches or have difficulty concentrating.
The withdrawal symptoms are only temporary. They are strongest when you first quit but will go away within 10 to 14 days. When withdrawal symptoms occur, stay in control. Think about your reasons for quitting. Remind yourself that these are signs that your body is healing and getting used to being without cigarettes. Remember that withdrawal symptoms are easier to treat than the major diseases that smoking can cause. Even after the withdrawal is over, expect periodic urges to smoke. However, these cravings are generally short-lived and will go away whether you smoke or not. Don't Smoke! If you smoke again (called a relapse) do not lose hope. Seventy-five percent of those who quit relapse. Most smokers quit three times before they are successful. If you relapse, don't give up! Plan ahead and think about what you will do next time you get the urge to smoke.