Smoking in Pregnancy

Protecting your baby from the harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke is one of the best things that you can do to give a child a healthy start in life. It can be a difficult task but if you quit before the 15th week of pregnancy, the outcome will be the same as a non-smoker. However, it is never too late to quit.

Every cigarette you smoke contains over 7000 chemicals, so smoking while pregnant harms your unborn baby. Cigarettes restrict essential oxygen supply to your baby and as a result their heart must beat harder. It is estimated that each puff on a cigarette restricts about two seconds of oxygen to your baby which is needed to help them grow and develop.




Stopping smoking will help both you and your baby immediately. Harmful gasses such as carbon monoxide will leave your body.

When you quit

  • You will reduce the risk of complications in pregnancy and birth
  • You are more likely to have a healthier pregnancy and a healthier baby
  • You will reduce the risk of stillbirth
  • Your baby is less likely to be born to early and have to face the additional breathing, feeding and health problems associated with being premature
  • You baby is less likely to be underweight, which can cause additional problems during and after labour
  • You will reduce your baby’s risk of cot death (sudden infant death syndrome). Smoking while pregnant is the number one risk factor for babies to die unexpectedly after birth. Around one in three babies’ lives could be saved from sudden infant death if parents didn’t smoke
  • Your child will have a lower risk of health problems, such as asthma and lung infections. Poisons and chemicals in smoke damage the unborn baby’s lungs and this has implications through their life.
  • Smoking while pregnant can increase the risk of behaviour problems, speech and language delay, ADHD and autistic spectrum disorders
  • You will be less stressed. Smokers suffer nicotine withdrawal symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, every time their nicotine levels get too low.



Second-hand smoke

Breathing in other people’s smoke is known as exposure to second-hand smoke or passive smoking. When you smoke, it’s not just your health that’s put at risk, but the health of anyone around you.

Most second-hand smoke comes from the tip of a burning cigarette. This makes it almost impossible to direct smoke away from those around you. If you only smoke in one area of your home the harmful chemicals will spread rapidly from room to room and can linger for up to 5 hours. If you smoke in a confined space such as a car, you’re exposing your fellow passengers to even more harmful chemicals. This is why smoking in cars with children on board has been banned in Scotland since December 2016.

Risks to other people

People exposed to second-hand smoke face the same dangers as smokers themselves. They too inhale the same poisonous gases and thousands of toxic chemicals found in tobacco smoke. Their risk of developing smoking-related diseases will also increase.

Pregnant women exposed to second-hand smoke will pass on harmful chemicals to their babies. Second-hand smoke is also particularly harmful for children, and others with long-term heart and/or breathing conditions.

Risks to children

Children breathe faster than adults, which means they take in more of the harmful chemicals in second-hand smoke. They’re even more sensitive to smoke than adults because their bodies are young and still developing.

Research shows that babies and children exposed to a smoky atmosphere are likely to have increased risk of:

  • breathing problems, illnesses and infections
  • reduced lung function
  • wheezing illnesses and asthma
  • sudden and unexpected death in infancy (SUDI)
  • certain ear, nose and throat problems, in particular middle ear disease

There is also an increased risk of developing bacterial meningitis, bronchitis, pneumonia and acute respiratory illnesses.



Nicotine Replacement Therapy

You can use NRT during pregnancy if it helps you to quit smoking and you are unable to stop without it. NRT contains only nicotine and none of the damaging chemicals found in cigarettes, so it is a much better choice than smoking.

Mums2Be Smokefree

Here at Smokefreelife Somerset we offer one-to-one support to help you quit smoking in pregnancy alongside Nicotine Replacement Therapy which is provided by the service. Appointments currently take place by telephone due to COVID-19, the initial appointment lasts for around 30 minutes. If you would like help please contact Smokefreelife Somerset on 01823 356222 or click here.

If your are a midwife or other health professional who would like to refer a pregnant woman or her partner for support you can download our referral form, and other useful resources, here.


Book an appointment