Pregnancy and tobacco: risks and tips

Despite the known harmful effects, it is difficult to quit smoking. Pregnancy can give you an extra incentive to reach your goal.


Smoking and pregnancy

During pregnancy, most of the substances you are exposed to travel through the placenta. Unfortunately, this also applies to smoking. So, your baby comes into contact with the various toxic substances in cigarettes if you smoke or breathe in second-hand smoke.

Did you know that cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, nearly 100 of which are carcinogenic? Among other things, carbon monoxide prevents the foetus from receiving an adequate supply of oxygen, an essential element for its proper development.


Effects of smoking during pregnancy

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

Furthermore, pregnant women who smoke put their unborn child at risk. Although the overall risk of malformations seems to be the same between babies born to a smoking mother and those born to a non-smoking mother, certain malformations are more frequent in the latter. This is the case for craniostenosis (deformation of the skull) and oral cleft, a malformation of the lip and/or palate (cleft lip for example).

Smoking during pregnancy also significantly increases the risk of premature birth, as well as stillbirth (delivery of a dead foetus). Lastly, it frequently causes an intrauterine growth retardation, leading to lower infant birth weight.


Post-delivery effects

Infants born to smoking mothers may experience the withdrawal effects of smoking in the first few days after delivery. Symptoms observed include trembling, colic, and irritability. In addition, the risk of sudden infant death syndrome is higher if the mother smokes during pregnancy.

It has also been shown that children born to smoking mothers are more likely to suffer from respiratory problems, including asthma and bronchitis, and to be hospitalized for respiratory infections.

Although the evidence is less conclusive, it is possible that exposure to cigarette smoke during pregnancy increases the risk of behavioural or neurodevelopmental problems. For example, children born to smoking mothers may have more behavioural problems and attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity.


Is it too late to quit smoking?

If you are pregnant and you smoke, it’s never too late to quit. Quitting smoking during pregnancy can help reduce the risk of premature birth and low birth weight babies. The sooner you quit smoking, the better for your baby.

The number of cigarettes smoked per day has also been shown to be related to the risk of health problems in the baby. So, cutting down on your smoking is already a step in the right direction for your child's health and yours.

If you are not pregnant yet, note that the effects of smoking on infertility and the risk of spontaneous abortion is reversible. Quitting smoking may help you conceive more easily.


What are your tools to quit smoking during pregnancy?

Don't hesitate to ask for support from loved ones and to use the many resources available to help you quit smoking (read the following text: Five resources at your disposal to quit smoking). Cognitive and behavioural therapies, i.e., those that aim to change your ideas and behaviours regarding cigarettes, are the first recourse for quitting smoking during pregnancy.

If these resources are not enough, 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 because they avoid exposing your baby to all the other toxic components of cigarettes.

Before you quit smoking during your pregnancy, speak to your pharmacist, who can discuss with you about the best options to help you. They can also answer your questions and provide tips to make it easier for you. They are the best-suited healthcare professionals to assist you in this process. For additional information on the subject, read the following text: Your pharmacist's role in smoke cessation.


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Pregnancy and tobacco: risks and tips

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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