Smoking and Pregnancy: Quit Now to Protect Your Unborn Baby

Reviewed Nov 1, 2017

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Summary

  • Smoking can make it harder for a woman to become pregnant.
  • Smoking during pregnancy can cause pregnancy complications and preterm birth.

Chris and Carly want to start a family, but both smoke regularly. Carly questions whether she can quit. “I know that smoking is hurting me. Even so, I have tried to quit but failed,” she explains.

So Chris and Carly met with her doctor to talk about her smoking, their wish to start a family, and how to help her chances of quitting for good. Here is what they learned.

Smoking makes it harder to get pregnant

Smoking lowers a woman’s chance of getting pregnant. Chemicals in tobacco smoke can harm a woman’s ovaries and eggs. These factors might lower fertility and increase the chance of miscarriage. They might also explain why women who smoke reach menopause at a younger age. Smoking might also get in the way of the function of the fallopian tubes. These are the tubes that connect the ovaries to the womb and where fertilization normally happens. Problems in the fallopian tubes may cause miscarriage and might explain why rates of ectopic pregnancy are higher in women who smoke. This happens when a fertilized egg implants outside the womb in the fallopian tube. It can be life threatening.

Moreover, men who smoke have reduced sperm count and less sperm movement compared to men who do not smoke. Studies also suggest that smoking can harm the DNA in a man’s sperm cells. All this can make it harder for a man’s sperm to fertilize a woman’s egg, lead to miscarriage, or cause birth defects.

Carly said:

I was surprised to learn that secondhand smoke exposure also lowers our odds of conception and can even result in miscarriage. So, even if I quit smoking, being around Chris while he is smoking could make it harder for me to get pregnant. Or should I get pregnant, increase my risk of losing the pregnancy.

Smoking can hurt your unborn baby

Pregnant women who smoke expose their unborn babies to harmful chemicals, including tar, nicotine, cyanide, and carbon monoxide. These chemicals can harm the placenta, so the baby does not get the oxygen and nutrients needed to grow well. Tobacco smoke can also harm tissues in the baby’s developing lungs and brain.

Women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have pregnancy problems, including:

  • Placental abruption: when the placenta separates from the uterus before childbirth, which can keep the unborn baby from getting enough oxygen and lead to preterm delivery
  • Placenta previa: when the placenta covers part or the whole opening of the cervix, which can lead to preterm labor and Caesarean birth
  • Preterm labor: going into labor before 37 weeks
  • Stillbirth: pregnancy loss after 20 weeks

Babies born to women who smoke are more likely to be born preterm (before 37 weeks) and at low birth weight (less than 5½ pounds). Being born too early or too small increases the risk of serious health problems, including breathing problems and death. It also increases the risk that the baby will have lasting issues, such as learning problems, cerebral palsy, and eyesight and hearing loss.

Carly said:

Hearing how I would poison my unborn baby should I become pregnant and continue to smoke really increased my desire and motivation to quit.

Smoking harms babies and children

Secondhand smoke is a major health threat to babies and children. Babies exposed to smoke while in the womb or after birth are more likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Babies who breathe secondhand smoke have weaker lungs than other babies. They are also prone to infections caused by smoke, including pneumonia and bronchitis. In fact, children of people who smoke are sick more often than children of those who don't smoke. Secondhand smoke causes older children to cough, wheeze, and feel out of breath. For children with asthma, breathing secondhand smoke can set off an asthma attack, which can be deadly. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are breathing many of the same cancer-causing chemicals as people who smoke. Children whose parents smoke are more likely to smoke as an adult.

Carly said:

Should Chris continue to smoke even after I quit, he will put our child at risk for problems that could have lasting consequences. We now know that a smoke-free home is the only way to fully protect our child from these risks. So, Chris and I are committed to quitting together.

Quit smoking now to protect your family

For a healthy pregnancy quitting smoking before getting pregnant is best. But women who quit smoking early in pregnancy also greatly improve their chances of having a healthy baby. Pregnant women who want to quit may not be able to use nicotine-replacement therapy or other drugs used to help people quit smoking. Experts don’t know whether these drugs are effective or safe to use during pregnancy. But, intensive counseling has been shown to help pregnant women quit. Women should talk to their doctors for help with quitting.

Carly said:

I was shocked to learn that among women who successfully give up smoking during pregnancy, 50 percent to 60 percent start smoking again after they have their babies. I promised myself, my husband, and my unborn child that I will do what it takes to stay smoke-free for the rest of my life.

Resources

Smokefree Women
www.women.smokefree.gov

SmokefreeMOM mobile text messaging service for pregnant women
http://women.smokefree.gov/smokefreemom.aspx

By Christine P. Martin
Source: Pregnancy complications, Womenshealth.gov; Your premature baby, March of Dimes, www.marchofdimes.com/baby/premature_indepth.html; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children and Secondhand Smoke Exposure. Excerpts from The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coordinating Center for Health Promotion, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2007; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A Report of the Surgeon General: How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease and What It Means To You. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2010
Reviewed by Sherrie Bieniek, MD, Group Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Smoking can make it harder for a woman to become pregnant.
  • Smoking during pregnancy can cause pregnancy complications and preterm birth.

Chris and Carly want to start a family, but both smoke regularly. Carly questions whether she can quit. “I know that smoking is hurting me. Even so, I have tried to quit but failed,” she explains.

So Chris and Carly met with her doctor to talk about her smoking, their wish to start a family, and how to help her chances of quitting for good. Here is what they learned.

Smoking makes it harder to get pregnant

Smoking lowers a woman’s chance of getting pregnant. Chemicals in tobacco smoke can harm a woman’s ovaries and eggs. These factors might lower fertility and increase the chance of miscarriage. They might also explain why women who smoke reach menopause at a younger age. Smoking might also get in the way of the function of the fallopian tubes. These are the tubes that connect the ovaries to the womb and where fertilization normally happens. Problems in the fallopian tubes may cause miscarriage and might explain why rates of ectopic pregnancy are higher in women who smoke. This happens when a fertilized egg implants outside the womb in the fallopian tube. It can be life threatening.

Moreover, men who smoke have reduced sperm count and less sperm movement compared to men who do not smoke. Studies also suggest that smoking can harm the DNA in a man’s sperm cells. All this can make it harder for a man’s sperm to fertilize a woman’s egg, lead to miscarriage, or cause birth defects.

Carly said:

I was surprised to learn that secondhand smoke exposure also lowers our odds of conception and can even result in miscarriage. So, even if I quit smoking, being around Chris while he is smoking could make it harder for me to get pregnant. Or should I get pregnant, increase my risk of losing the pregnancy.

Smoking can hurt your unborn baby

Pregnant women who smoke expose their unborn babies to harmful chemicals, including tar, nicotine, cyanide, and carbon monoxide. These chemicals can harm the placenta, so the baby does not get the oxygen and nutrients needed to grow well. Tobacco smoke can also harm tissues in the baby’s developing lungs and brain.

Women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have pregnancy problems, including:

  • Placental abruption: when the placenta separates from the uterus before childbirth, which can keep the unborn baby from getting enough oxygen and lead to preterm delivery
  • Placenta previa: when the placenta covers part or the whole opening of the cervix, which can lead to preterm labor and Caesarean birth
  • Preterm labor: going into labor before 37 weeks
  • Stillbirth: pregnancy loss after 20 weeks

Babies born to women who smoke are more likely to be born preterm (before 37 weeks) and at low birth weight (less than 5½ pounds). Being born too early or too small increases the risk of serious health problems, including breathing problems and death. It also increases the risk that the baby will have lasting issues, such as learning problems, cerebral palsy, and eyesight and hearing loss.

Carly said:

Hearing how I would poison my unborn baby should I become pregnant and continue to smoke really increased my desire and motivation to quit.

Smoking harms babies and children

Secondhand smoke is a major health threat to babies and children. Babies exposed to smoke while in the womb or after birth are more likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Babies who breathe secondhand smoke have weaker lungs than other babies. They are also prone to infections caused by smoke, including pneumonia and bronchitis. In fact, children of people who smoke are sick more often than children of those who don't smoke. Secondhand smoke causes older children to cough, wheeze, and feel out of breath. For children with asthma, breathing secondhand smoke can set off an asthma attack, which can be deadly. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are breathing many of the same cancer-causing chemicals as people who smoke. Children whose parents smoke are more likely to smoke as an adult.

Carly said:

Should Chris continue to smoke even after I quit, he will put our child at risk for problems that could have lasting consequences. We now know that a smoke-free home is the only way to fully protect our child from these risks. So, Chris and I are committed to quitting together.

Quit smoking now to protect your family

For a healthy pregnancy quitting smoking before getting pregnant is best. But women who quit smoking early in pregnancy also greatly improve their chances of having a healthy baby. Pregnant women who want to quit may not be able to use nicotine-replacement therapy or other drugs used to help people quit smoking. Experts don’t know whether these drugs are effective or safe to use during pregnancy. But, intensive counseling has been shown to help pregnant women quit. Women should talk to their doctors for help with quitting.

Carly said:

I was shocked to learn that among women who successfully give up smoking during pregnancy, 50 percent to 60 percent start smoking again after they have their babies. I promised myself, my husband, and my unborn child that I will do what it takes to stay smoke-free for the rest of my life.

Resources

Smokefree Women
www.women.smokefree.gov

SmokefreeMOM mobile text messaging service for pregnant women
http://women.smokefree.gov/smokefreemom.aspx

By Christine P. Martin
Source: Pregnancy complications, Womenshealth.gov; Your premature baby, March of Dimes, www.marchofdimes.com/baby/premature_indepth.html; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children and Secondhand Smoke Exposure. Excerpts from The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coordinating Center for Health Promotion, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2007; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A Report of the Surgeon General: How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease and What It Means To You. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2010
Reviewed by Sherrie Bieniek, MD, Group Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Smoking can make it harder for a woman to become pregnant.
  • Smoking during pregnancy can cause pregnancy complications and preterm birth.

Chris and Carly want to start a family, but both smoke regularly. Carly questions whether she can quit. “I know that smoking is hurting me. Even so, I have tried to quit but failed,” she explains.

So Chris and Carly met with her doctor to talk about her smoking, their wish to start a family, and how to help her chances of quitting for good. Here is what they learned.

Smoking makes it harder to get pregnant

Smoking lowers a woman’s chance of getting pregnant. Chemicals in tobacco smoke can harm a woman’s ovaries and eggs. These factors might lower fertility and increase the chance of miscarriage. They might also explain why women who smoke reach menopause at a younger age. Smoking might also get in the way of the function of the fallopian tubes. These are the tubes that connect the ovaries to the womb and where fertilization normally happens. Problems in the fallopian tubes may cause miscarriage and might explain why rates of ectopic pregnancy are higher in women who smoke. This happens when a fertilized egg implants outside the womb in the fallopian tube. It can be life threatening.

Moreover, men who smoke have reduced sperm count and less sperm movement compared to men who do not smoke. Studies also suggest that smoking can harm the DNA in a man’s sperm cells. All this can make it harder for a man’s sperm to fertilize a woman’s egg, lead to miscarriage, or cause birth defects.

Carly said:

I was surprised to learn that secondhand smoke exposure also lowers our odds of conception and can even result in miscarriage. So, even if I quit smoking, being around Chris while he is smoking could make it harder for me to get pregnant. Or should I get pregnant, increase my risk of losing the pregnancy.

Smoking can hurt your unborn baby

Pregnant women who smoke expose their unborn babies to harmful chemicals, including tar, nicotine, cyanide, and carbon monoxide. These chemicals can harm the placenta, so the baby does not get the oxygen and nutrients needed to grow well. Tobacco smoke can also harm tissues in the baby’s developing lungs and brain.

Women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have pregnancy problems, including:

  • Placental abruption: when the placenta separates from the uterus before childbirth, which can keep the unborn baby from getting enough oxygen and lead to preterm delivery
  • Placenta previa: when the placenta covers part or the whole opening of the cervix, which can lead to preterm labor and Caesarean birth
  • Preterm labor: going into labor before 37 weeks
  • Stillbirth: pregnancy loss after 20 weeks

Babies born to women who smoke are more likely to be born preterm (before 37 weeks) and at low birth weight (less than 5½ pounds). Being born too early or too small increases the risk of serious health problems, including breathing problems and death. It also increases the risk that the baby will have lasting issues, such as learning problems, cerebral palsy, and eyesight and hearing loss.

Carly said:

Hearing how I would poison my unborn baby should I become pregnant and continue to smoke really increased my desire and motivation to quit.

Smoking harms babies and children

Secondhand smoke is a major health threat to babies and children. Babies exposed to smoke while in the womb or after birth are more likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Babies who breathe secondhand smoke have weaker lungs than other babies. They are also prone to infections caused by smoke, including pneumonia and bronchitis. In fact, children of people who smoke are sick more often than children of those who don't smoke. Secondhand smoke causes older children to cough, wheeze, and feel out of breath. For children with asthma, breathing secondhand smoke can set off an asthma attack, which can be deadly. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are breathing many of the same cancer-causing chemicals as people who smoke. Children whose parents smoke are more likely to smoke as an adult.

Carly said:

Should Chris continue to smoke even after I quit, he will put our child at risk for problems that could have lasting consequences. We now know that a smoke-free home is the only way to fully protect our child from these risks. So, Chris and I are committed to quitting together.

Quit smoking now to protect your family

For a healthy pregnancy quitting smoking before getting pregnant is best. But women who quit smoking early in pregnancy also greatly improve their chances of having a healthy baby. Pregnant women who want to quit may not be able to use nicotine-replacement therapy or other drugs used to help people quit smoking. Experts don’t know whether these drugs are effective or safe to use during pregnancy. But, intensive counseling has been shown to help pregnant women quit. Women should talk to their doctors for help with quitting.

Carly said:

I was shocked to learn that among women who successfully give up smoking during pregnancy, 50 percent to 60 percent start smoking again after they have their babies. I promised myself, my husband, and my unborn child that I will do what it takes to stay smoke-free for the rest of my life.

Resources

Smokefree Women
www.women.smokefree.gov

SmokefreeMOM mobile text messaging service for pregnant women
http://women.smokefree.gov/smokefreemom.aspx

By Christine P. Martin
Source: Pregnancy complications, Womenshealth.gov; Your premature baby, March of Dimes, www.marchofdimes.com/baby/premature_indepth.html; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children and Secondhand Smoke Exposure. Excerpts from The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coordinating Center for Health Promotion, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2007; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A Report of the Surgeon General: How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease and What It Means To You. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2010
Reviewed by Sherrie Bieniek, MD, Group Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

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