Smoking During Pregnancy

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

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Is any amount of smoking safe in pregnancy?

While the health risks increase with an increased amount of smoking, there is no known safe limit for tobacco smoking in pregnancy. All smoking can have serious health consequences for the baby.

What are the risks of secondhand smoke in pregnancy?

Secondhand smoke is breathing tobacco smoke from being near a smoker. It also increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancers. The risks of smoking during pregnancy apply to pregnant women who breathe secondhand smoke as well.

For babies exposed to secondhand smoke, there is an increase in risk for developing asthma attacks, breathing problems, ear infections, impaired lung development, and coughing. Children exposed to secondhand smoke require more ear tube surgeries than those who are not exposed. One study showed that exposure to secondhand smoke was associated with lower IQs in children. Sudden infant death syndrome is more common in babies born to women who smoked during pregnancy as well as in babies exposed to secondhand smoke.

Can nicotine replacement products be used during pregnancy to quit smoking?

Nicotine replacement products result in a buildup of nicotine in the bloodstream in those who use them, decreasing the cravings and withdrawal symptoms for those trying to quit. However, the nicotine in the bloodstream directly enters the fetal circulation from the mother, and these products and their potential risks to the baby have not been studied in pregnant women. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that these products be used in pregnancy only when non-drug methods such as counseling have failed, and when the increased chance of quitting smoking with these products outweighs the unknown risks of nicotine use during pregnancy.

Medically reviewed by Steven Nelson, MD; Board Certified Obstetrics and Gynecology

REFERENCES:

CDC.gov. Health Effects of Secondhand Smoke.

Smokefree.gov. Secondhand Smoke.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/8/2015
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