Pregnancy and smoking—risks and advice

Despite everything that is known about tobacco's harmful effects, it can be difficult to quit smoking. However, pregnancy can give you an extra incentive to reach your goal. Learn more about the negative effects of smoking—you may decide to butt out for good!

Smoking and pregnancy

During pregnancy, most of the substances you are exposed to travel through the placenta. Unfortunately, this is also true for cigarettes. Your baby is exposed to the different toxic chemicals in cigarettes if you smoke or if you breathe in second-hand smoke.

Did you know that cigarette smoke contains more than 4000 chemicals of which approximately 100 are carcinogenic? Among other things, carbon monoxide prevents the foetus from receiving an adequate oxygen intake, which of course is crucial to its proper development.

Effects of smoking during pregnancy

First, smoking can prevent the occurrence of pregnancy. It has been shown that smoking increases the risk of infertility and the time it takes to conceive. Smoking can also increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy (outside the uterus) and of spontaneous abortion (miscarriage).

With regards to the overall risk of deformities, there does not seem to be a difference between children born from mothers who smoke and mothers who do not. However, some specific deformities are more frequent in children born from mothers who smoke—these children present a higher risk of craniostenosis (deformity of the skull) and of cleft palate, among others.

Smoking also significantly increases the risk of premature birth and of stillbirth (delivery of a child that has died before birth). Lastly, it frequently causes an intrauterine growth retardation, which leads to lower infant birth weight.

Post delivery effects

Infants born from smoking mothers sometimes feel the withdrawal effects of cigarette smoke in the first days after their birth. Symptoms observed include trembling, colic, and irritability. In addition, the risk of sudden infant death is higher if the mother smokes during pregnancy.

It has also been shown that children born from smoking mothers have a higher risk of respiratory problems such as asthma, bronchitis, and hospitalization due to respiratory infection.

Although data is not as fully conclusive on the matter, it is possible that exposure to cigarette smoke during pregnancy increases the risk of behavioural development or neurological problems. Thus, children born from smoking mothers could have a higher risk of behavioural problems and attention deficit with or without hyperactivity.

Is it too late to quit smoking?

If you are already pregnant and you smoke, it is important to note that it is never too late to quit smoking. Quitting smoking during pregnancy can help to diminish the risks of premature birth and low birth weight. The sooner you quit smoking, the better it will be for your baby.

Furthermore, it has been shown that the number of cigarettes smoked per day is also related to the risk of health problems for the baby. Thus, reducing your consumption is a step in the right direction to promote your baby's health and yours.

Lastly, if you are not pregnant yet, note that the effects of smoking on infertility and the risk of spontaneous abortion is reversible. Therefore, quitting smoking could facilitate you becoming pregnant.

What are your tools to quit smoking during pregnancy?

Don't hesitate to ask for support from loved ones and to use the great number of resources available to help you quit smoking (read the following text: Five resources at your disposal to quit smoking). Cognitive and behavioural therapy, that is, therapy intended to modify your smoking-related thoughts and behaviours, is the primary care used to quit smoking during pregnancy.

If these resources are not sufficient, you can turn to nicotine replacement therapies in the form of patches, chewing gum, lozenges, inhalers or sprays. Although these products contain nicotine, they are less harmful than cigarettes, as they prevent your baby's exposure to all the other toxic compounds found in cigarettes.

Before quitting smoking during pregnancy, speak to your pharmacist. Pharmacists can check what the best options are to help you. They can also answer your questions and offer tips to make quitting easier. They are the best-suited healthcare professionals to accompany you throughout the process. For additional information on the matter, read the following text: Your pharmacist's role in smoke cessation.

Yes, smoke cessation is a major challenge. If you are pregnant, it's an even nobler cause, as it concerns your baby's health and well-being. Keep in mind that not only are you quitting smoking for yourself, but you are doing it especially for your baby! It's the most precious gift you can offer your little one, giving him/her the chance to thrive and start life in a smoke-free environment.

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Pregnancy and smoking—risks and advice

Despite everything that is known about tobacco's harmful effects, it can be difficult to quit smoking. However, pregnancy can give you an extra incentive to reach your goal. Learn more about the negative effects of smoking—you may decide to butt out for good!
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