What you should know about smoking during pregnancy
There is no safe limit for tobacco smoke exposure during pregnancy.
How does smoking affect a pregnant woman and her baby?
Tobacco smoking affects both mother and baby and poses health risks to both. Smoking during pregnancy puts the baby at risk for health problems during the pregnancy and after the baby is born. Nicotine and all the harmful (and cancer-causing) products inhaled from the tobacco enter the bloodstream of the mother and are passed directly into the baby's circulation through the placenta. Tobacco smoke contains over 7,000 harmful chemicals, over 70 of which are known to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing).
Some of the known health effects on the baby include the following:
- A decreased supply of oxygen available to the baby
- Increased risk of miscarriage and stillbirth
- Increased risk of poor growth and low birth weight
- Increased risk of premature delivery
- Increase in the heart rate of the baby
- Increased risk of breathing problems in the baby
These risks to the baby increase with the number of cigarettes smoked during pregnancy. Of course, tobacco smoking is also harmful to the mother, increasing her risk of
Secondhand Smoke & Children
Exposure to Secondhand Smoke May Lower Children's IQ
Despite mounting evidence about the perils of secondhand tobacco smoke exposure in children, 40% of children in the United States are routinely exposed to secondhand smoke, termed environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), in their own homes. ETS has already been definitively linked to a number of medical problems in children, including sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), colic, middle ear disease, worsening of asthma symptoms, and other respiratory problems. Research has also begun to suggest that ETS may be neurotoxic, or damaging to the nervous system, with potential effects on the development of intellect and reasoning skills in children.
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 you use nicotine replacement products 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.
Effects of Secondhand Smoke: Facts
Medically Reviewed on 4/29/2021
Medically reviewed by Wayne Blocker, MD; Board Certified Obstetrics and Gynecology
United States. CDC. "Health Effects of Secondhand Smoke."
"Secondhand Smoke." Smokefree.gov.