How Smoking Affects You and Your Baby During Pregnancy
Smoking during pregnancy affects your and your baby's health before, during, and after your baby is born. The nicotine (the addictive substance in cigarettes), carbon monoxide, lead, arsenic, 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 second-hand 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.
Babies exposed to second-hand smoke might 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 cough
- 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.
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 10 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 might stimulate your urge to smoke. Also avoid alcohol, as it also might 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 to relieve tension. Take a walk, exercise, or read a book.
- Look for support from others. Join a support group or smoking cessation program. Do not go places where many people smoke, such as bars, clubs, and smoking sections of restaurants.
Should I use a nicotine replacement to help me quit?
Nicotine gum and patches release nicotine into the bloodstream of the smoker who is trying to quit. Although these products can reduce withdrawal symptoms and decrease cravings in smokers who are trying to quit, nicotine is quite toxic and potentially harmful to the fetus, as well as to the infant who is breastfeeding. Therefore, these and other products containing nicotine are not recommended for the pregnant woman who is trying to quit smoking.
How will I feel when I quit smoking?
The benefits of not smoking start within days of quitting. After you quit, you and your baby's heartbeat will return to normal, and your baby will be less likely to develop breathing problems.
You might have symptoms of withdrawal because your body is used to nicotine, the addictive substance in cigarettes. You might crave cigarettes, be irritable, feel fatigued and 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 brief 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.