The Effects of Smoking While Pregnant AND Resources to Quit

One of the most common questions we receive from clients is about the effects of smoking while pregnant.

Many expecting women are concerned about their ability to stop using cigarettes during an often stressful time in their life. At the same time, they know that quitting is essential to their baby’s health.

And, they’re correct to be concerned about the effects of smoking on their unborn baby. Not only is it harmful in the womb, it is harmful to the health of the mom, whose life is just as important.

Woman holding a broken cigarette-quit smoking concept

Fortunately, if you’re addicted to cigarettes and are pregnant, there are some proven ways to help overcome the addiction.

Smoking and Pregnancy

First, how does cigarette smoke really affect an unborn baby in the womb and beyond?

Cigarette smoke by an expecting mom can put her baby at risk for:

  • Problems with placenta and bleeding during pregnancy (also a risk to mom’s health)
  • Premature birth or low birth weight
  • Damage to baby’s lungs and brain (can last beyond childhood)
  • Birth defects such as cleft palate and/or cleft lip
  • SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)
  • Behavioral problems such as ADHD and ODD
  • Colic
  • Asthma
  • Childhood obesity

(Sources: CDC, NIH, Mayo Clinic.)Pregnant women holding cigarette in her hand

Ultrasound evidence

One interesting study allowed researchers to see the impact in the womb on babies whose mothers smoke, versus those whose mothers did not smoke.

Ultrasound images from this study showed babies grimacing and having a greatly increased mouth and hand movement in reaction to nicotine exposure.

Researchers believe these movements may be a direct visual of the harm that toxins cause to unborn babies and the effect on their development.

Vaping and Pregnancy

Some moms wonder if vaping is a safer alternative to smoking.

The truth is that most vapes contain nicotine and other chemicals that are not safe to unborn babies.

Therefore, babies are still at risk of serious brain and lung damage, and other health problems if their mother is vaping while pregnant.

(Source: Mayo Clinic, sign with text "vaping risk"

Secondhand smoke and pregnancy

What about secondhand smoke?

Secondhand smoke during pregnancy is also a risk factor to baby’s development and overall health.

Many of the same risks listed above also apply to secondhand smoke that an unborn baby is exposed to including low birth weight. A baby can also be at risk for SIDS, asthma and ear infections after birth, due to secondhand smoke exposure.

Is it too late?

While it’s clear that smoking can be harmful during pregnancy, don’t assume that your baby’s health is doomed because you’re a smoker.

Quitting at any point in your pregnancy is possible, and you and your baby can still benefit.

You can’t change the the past, but by quitting now- whatever trimester of pregnancy you’re in, you can increase the chances for a healthier outcome for yourself and your baby.

(Source: March of Dimes.)Image of mom holding her newborn after delivery

How to Quit Smoking while Pregnant

As you can see, it’s more than worthwhile to stop smoking as soon as you find out you’re pregnant.

Not only will your baby benefit, your healthy lifestyle will help your body to start to heal from the effects of smoking. You will breathe more easily and even food will start to taste better!

Here’s the first steps to take to stop smoking now:

  1. Talk to your doctor who can help you develop a plan. Write it down and keep it in a place where you can see it every day.
  2. Tell your family and friends your plan to quit so that they can support you.
  3. Avoid spending time with anyone who will not help you to reach your goal or might tempt you to start smoking again.
  4. Consider an accountability partner- someone who will check in with you several times a week to cheer you on. Choose someone you can be completely honest with, and who wants to see you succeed.
  5. Be completely honest with your doctor or healthcare provider so that they can monitor your progress and continue to help you stop smoking for good.

Doctor taking blood pressure of pregnant patient.

Additional Resources to kick the habit

  • Smokefree MOM program: text MOM to 222888 for daily tips and encouragement. (Read more here.)
  • In Missouri, contact the Missouri Quit line: 1-800-QUIT-NOW or go to You will receive a free “quit kit” and coaching to help you stop smoking.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is prenatal smoking really a big deal?

As mentioned above, there is plenty of medical literature to document the effects of smoking on prenatal development, as well as the negative impact on maternal health (such as the risk of cardiovascular and pulmonary events).

By deciding to quit smoking, prenatal health may improve. And of course, by choosing to stay away from smoking and cigarette smoke in general, you can avoid smoking effects on prenatal development entirely!

2. Where can I read more about prenatal smoking effects?

Reputable sources on smoking and prenatal development:

Still need help to stop smoking while pregnant?

If you’re simply overwhelmed with all the options, make an appointment at the Pregnancy Resource Center so that we can help connect you with the tools to succeed.

We offer classes that discuss the effects of smoking while pregnant, along with the support and encouragement you need to quit smoking and never look back.

You AND your baby deserve the best, during pregnancy and beyond.
Contact us to make an appointment today

Also read: Pregnant and Unemployed? How to find the help you need.

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