Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Pregnant women who smoke face a lot of pressure. Your doctor or midwife tells you to quit. Maybe you feel you need cigarettes to get through the day. Maybe you feel stuck because smoking while you’re pregnant puts stress on your relationships, but trying to quit does too. Yet you can do it. You can quit smoking, and it will be tremendously positive for you and your baby.

It’s best  if you stop smoking forever. If that seems too hard, then focus on quitting during your pregnancy. There are programs just for pregnant women. You don’t have to stop cold turkey. Even cutting back on smoking can reduce some risks. Make the effort for your baby and for yourself -- it’s worth it.

How Smoking Affects Your Baby

You’ve heard how unhealthy smoking is for you. Smoking also harms your developing baby in many ways. It puts unhealthy chemicals in your baby’s body and reduces his oxygen supply. When you smoke, your baby is more likely to be born early and tiny.

Babies who weigh less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces at birth are said to have a “low birth weight.” This means they have a greater chance of having trouble breathing, fighting off infection, and gaining weight. Some low-birthweight babies and almost all very low-birthweight babies (those under 3 pounds, 4 ounces) have to spend time in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) before they can go home.

Smoking also increases the chance your baby will have a birth defect like cleft palate or cleft lip. With these conditions, a baby’s mouth or lip does not form properly. It can interfere with  his ability to eat and speak and usually requires surgery.

How Smoking Affects You

You may smoke to help you face mental stress, but every cigarette increases the stress on your body. Women who smoke often have more medical problems when they’re pregnant:

A higher chance for placental abruption. That’s when the placenta peels away from the wall of your uterus too soon. It can cause serious bleeding or premature labor.

A higher chance for placenta previa. That’s when your placenta is in such a position that it could rupture during contractions and cause severe bleeding. That means you may need to stay in the hospital to try to delay your delivery. When you do give birth, you may need a C-section; regular vaginal delivery may be too dangerous.

Quitting before or during pregnancy lowers the chance that you’ll have one of these problems.

Secondhand Smoke

Even being exposed to secondhand smoke while you’re pregnant makes you 20% more likely to have a low-birthweight baby. So if your partner or another person living with you smokes, quit together.