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Smoking is a hard habit to kick, but if there’s one compelling reason to do it - it’s to make sure your child gets the best start in life.

If you’re trying to conceive, or have recently become pregnant - you need to stop smoking.

It’s hard to overstate the dangers that smoking can be to unborn and newborn children and in this guide, we’ll set out why you should stop and the best ways to quit in a hurry.

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Not smoking while pregnant is good for your child

The Risks

You’re probably aware just how bad smoking is for you, but it’s even worse for your baby. If you’re having a cigarette while pregnant, you’re passing along all the damage to your child.

This poses a range of serious health risks for your baby and it’s no good to try and cut down. Smoking while pregnant is like exposing your child to second-hand smoke, but much, much worse.

Every cigarette you smoke while pregnant, your baby smokes along with you and simply cutting down isn’t good enough. When you take a drag, you’re passing along the thousands of poisonous chemicals you inhale on to your baby, which can be disastrous for their health and greatly increases the risk of stillbirth and miscarriage.


The poisonous chemicals you inhale while smoking will travel through your bloodstream into your baby via the placenta, which causes them to struggle for oxygen and their heart to work harder.

This can have awful effects on your child’s growth and development, drastically increasing the chances of a low birth weight and doubling the chances that they’ll be born prematurely.

Again, simply cutting down to a couple of cigarettes a day won’t do any good, as even a fairly light habit can have devastating effects on your baby’s health.

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Low birth weight

A 1978 study found that levels of low birth weight were proportional to the amount that mothers smoked during the course of their pregnancy. A great deal of research has confirmed this finding, with other studies from the cdc suggesting that children born to smokers were more than twice as likely to have a low birth weight than those born to non-smokers.

Breathing problems

Babies with a low birth weight often have developmental problems. One of the most common is under-developed lungs, which in serious cases, can mean your baby will be confined to a respirator for the first few weeks of their lives.

Breathing problems, such as asthma, are also common in the children of mothers who smoked while pregnant and babies born to smokers are up to three times more likely to experience sudden infant death syndrome.

Second-hand smoke

Even if you don’t smoke while pregnant, exposure to second-hand smoke can be just as damaging to your unborn baby.

It’s also been associated with a higher risk of SIDS, bronchitis and pneumonia during their first year.

A US study also found children exposed to second-hand smoke in the womb performed worse on cognitive development tests at the age of two.

Heart problems

Heart problems are another common byproduct of smoking during pregnancy, with US research from 2011 finding that congenital heart defects were between 20 to 70 per cent more likely to occur in newborns whose mothers smoked during pregnancy.

Learning disorders and disabilities

Smoking while pregnant can have a severe impact on your child’s brain. Numerous studies have found the children of maternal smokers were:

  • More likely to have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)
  • Suffer from behavioural problems and conduct disorders
  • Score lower on academic tests
  • Have worse auditory processing skills
  • More likely to suffer from psychiatric disorders, like depression

It’s thought that these occur when the foetus is starved of oxygen, in addition to the chemicals in cigarettes affecting the development of neurons in the child’s brain.

Quitting smoking before pregnancy

Smokers trying to conceive typically take longer than non-smokers and are also at an increased risk of infertility.

If you’re planning on starting a family, or are already trying to conceive, it’s best to quit smoking as soon as possible. This will not only improve your chances of conception, but will also be incredibly beneficial for your health and that of your baby.

Quitting is easier said than done, however, and you should prepare yourself for a hard-fought battle to kick the habit. We’ve compiled some of the most popular tips and tricks for quitting in our handy guide, but in brief:

  • Have a plan for when you’re going to stop and how you’re going to cope with cravings
  • Throw out all your smoking paraphernalia
  • Don’t expose yourself to situations where you’d usually smoke
  • Get a hobby, or several, to distract yourself from cravings in the short-term
  • Consider medication, like nicotine supplements or gum.

Quitting smoking after becoming pregnant

Sometimes, pregnancy can happen unexpectedly, and in cases like this, it’s important to stop smoking as soon as possible.

In an ideal world, you’d have time to prepare yourself, but for the sake of yours and your child’s health, you’ll need to go cold turkey.

Every cigarette you smoke puts your child at a greater risk of all the problems discussed above, so cutting down or easing into stopping simply isn’t an option at this stage.

But it’s not all bad news, in a recent study sponsored by the British Heart Foundation, it was found that participants were 25 times more likely to successfully kick the habit if they stopped suddenly than those who quit gradually.

Once again, you can refer to our handy guide for loads of tips on going cold turkey, but some of the best include:

  • Get advice from someone you know who’s already been through it
  • Substitute smoking for sips of water
  • Make sure you don’t skip any meals
  • Get a pen, stick or toothpick to keep your hands busy and/or chew on
  • on’t beat yourself up if you relapse, just start over and try again

Talk to a doctor about quitting smoking

Quitting smoking may seem like a never-ending battle, but it’s not one you’ll have to fight alone.

If you’re looking for expert advice or prescription medication to help you in your efforts to stop - speak to a doctor online now.

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