Smoking & Pregnancy

If you smoke and you are pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, you are strongly advised to stop smoking. This is to benefit your health, and the health of your baby. There is a lot of evidence out there that smoking can reduce fertility, cause miscarriage or an aborted pregnancy and worse still can lead to handicap and deformity in the baby.

The poor baby is more likely to be born prematurely and usually smoker’s babies are about half a pound lighter than non-smokers’ (Average loss in one study 226gms).

Why is smoking harmful in pregnancy?

Tobacco smoke contains poisonous chemicals which pass into your bloodstream when you smoke, and then on into the growing baby's blood. Smoking when you are pregnant increases the risk of: miscarriage; slowing the growth of the baby leading to a low birth weight; premature labour leading to the baby being premature ('prem'); stillbirth.

Even after the birth, children of smoking parents have an increased risk of developing chest infections, asthma, 'glue ear', and sudden infant death syndrome (cot death).

Researchers have also examined the placental tissue from smokers and found large areas of dead tissue. The placenta provides the baby with all his needs while in the womb, so a deteriorating placenta can precipitate a premature birth.

There is a lot of cadmium and lead, two of the worst toxic metals known, in cigarette smoke. They can damage both the brain and the kidneys. This damage is a major cause of learning and behavioral problems.

Smoker’s children are also more prone to cleft lip and palate. This is something to be avoided if humanly possible as it will mean putting the baby through surgery.

There is also a greater risk of spina bifida and mental retardation.

Ectopic pregnancies are also more usual for smokers. These are where the implantation takes place outside the womb, usually in one of the fallopian tubes. Again this is not a happy situation as it entails surgery, and of course you lose the baby and you could lose the fallopian tube also.

In addition to the problems during the pregnancy, smokers are less able to breast-feed and this gives the baby a further disadvantage, as early weaning often brings allergies such as asthma, eczema and epilepsy in its wake.

Recently FTS or fetal tobacco syndrome is being recognized among school children as producing poorer learning ability.

The male smoker also causes many disadvantages in his offspring. There has been found to be a greater of facial deformity, limb reduction deformity and a higher risk of cancer and leukemia in the children of fathers who smoked prior to their conception.

When should I stop smoking?

You and your baby will get most benefit, and the risks will be most reduced, if you stop before you become pregnant.

Planning to become pregnant is a good incentive to stop smoking for many women, and is often a good time to persuade partners to give up too. However, your baby will still gain some benefit if you stop at any point during pregnancy.

GPs, practice nurses, or pharmacists can provide information, encouragement, and tips on stopping smoking.

Also, throughout the country there are specialist NHS 'Stop Smoking Clinics' which have a good success in helping people to stop smoking. Your doctor may refer you to one if you are keen to stop smoking. Also, the following may be of help.


Quit - a charity that helps people stop smoking.
Quitline: 0800 00 22 00

Smokefree - for help and advice on stopping smoking, and details of your local NHS stop smoking service.
Helpline: 0800 022 4332

For further information and research into smoking and pregnancy, please visit our research section.
Click Here »

New research figures now available