Smoking During Pregnancy
If your health isn't enough to make you quit smoking, then the health of your baby should be. Smoking during pregnancy affects you and your baby's health before, during, and after your baby is born. The nicotine (the addictive substance in cigarettes), carbon monoxide, 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 (lung) 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 while pregnant.
How Does Secondhand Smoke Affect Pregnancy?
Secondhand 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 actually contains more harmful substances (tar, carbon monoxide, nicotine, and others) than the smoke inhaled by the smoker.
If you are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke, you increase your and your baby's risk of developing lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, allergies, asthma, and other health problems.
Babies exposed to secondhand smoke may also develop reduced lung capacity and are at higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
How Can I Quit Smoking Before or During Pregnancy?
There are many smoking cessation programs available to help you quit smoking. Ask your health care provider for more information about these programs.
Here are some tips that may help you kick the habit:
- Hide your matches, lighters, and ashtrays.
- Designate your home a non-smoking area.
- Ask people who smoke not to smoke around you.
- Drink fewer caffeinated beverages; caffeine may stimulate your urge to smoke. Also avoid alcohol, as it may also 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 help relieve tension: take a walk, exercise, read a book, or try a new a hobby.
- Look for support from others. Join a support group or smoking cessation program.
- Do not go places where many people are smoking such as bars or clubs, and smoking sections of restaurants.
Can I Use a Nicotine Replacement During Pregnancy?
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, the safety of these products hasn't been adequately evaluated in pregnant women.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommend that nicotine gum and patches be considered in pregnant women only after other non-drug treatments, like counseling, have failed and if the increased likelihood of quitting smoking, with its potential benefits, outweighs the unknown risk of nicotine replacement and potential smoking.