Published Tue, 2011-03-15 11:02; updated 35 weeks ago.
Protecting your baby from tobacco smoke is one of the best things you can do to give your child a healthy start in life.
It's never too late to stop. Every cigarette smoked in pregnancy harms the unborn baby. Cigarettes restrict the essential oxygen supply to your baby, so their heart has to beat harder every time you smoke.
When you smoke, carbon monoxide and other poisons pass into your lungs. This means that:
- Your baby gets less oxygen and cannot grow as well as it should.
- The nicotine makes your baby's heart beat faster. Breathing in other people's smoke makes the baby more likely to suffer from asthma attacks, chest infections, coughs and colds, and to be admitted to hospital.
Stopping smoking will benefit you and your baby immediately. Carbon monoxide and chemicals will clear from the body and oxygen levels will return to normal. If you stop smoking:
- You'll have less morning sickness and fewer complications in pregnancy.
- You're more likely to have a healthier pregnancy and a healthier baby.
- You'll reduce the risk of stillbirth.
- You'll cope better with the birth.
- Your baby will cope better with any birth complications.
- Your baby is less likely to be born too early and to face the additional breathing, feeding and health problems that often come with prematurity.
- Your baby is less likely to be underweight and have extra problems in keeping warm. Babies of mothers who smoke are, on average, 200g (about 7oz) lighter than other babies. These babies may have problems during and after labour, and are more prone to infection.
- You'll reduce the risk of cot death.
The sooner you stop, the better. But stopping even in the last few weeks of pregnancy can be beneficial. If your partner or anyone else who lives with you smokes, their smoke can affect you and the baby both before and after birth. They can help you and the baby by giving up now. Perhaps you could try to stop together.
Second-hand smoke can cause low birth weight and cot death. Babies whose parents are smokers are more likely to be admitted to hospital for bronchitis and pneumonia during the first year of life.
You can find useful information on the dangers of smoking during pregnancy, and advice on how to stop on the Go Smokefree website. The NHS Pregnancy Smoking Helpline on 0800 169 9169 offers free help, support and advice on stopping smoking when you're pregnant. You can talk to your midwife, health visitor, practice nurse or pharmacist for advice and for details of your nearest NHS Stop Smoking service. They can offer advice about how to deal with stress, weight gain and nicotine replacement therapy to help you manage your cravings.
Watch this video to find out more about the support available to help you stop smoking.