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Smoking and pregnancy

Congratulations on your pregnancy!

You may be feeling a lot of pressure to quit. Take some time to think about what the right decision is for you and your baby. The decision is yours but don’t forget there’s a lot of support out there to help you if you want to quit.

Quitting at any time during your pregnancy reduces the risk of harm to your baby.

Planning to quit as early as you can is the decision most health professionals recommend. 

Quitline has specially-trained advisors to help you during your pregnancy, whether you’re ready to quit or if you're not sure. Your midwife and GP can also offer information and support.

The day you quit your body will start to get rid of all the harmful chemicals found in cigarettes.

Every puff you take on a cigarette has an immediate effect on your baby:

  • The carbon monoxide you inhale replaces some of the oxygen in your blood, reducing the amount of oxygen getting to your baby.
  • The nicotine in cigarettes reduces how well your placenta works, making it harder for your baby to get the oxygen and nourishment it needs.
  • Due to lack of oxygen your baby moves less, for at least an hour, after each cigarette. It’s also harder for your baby to practise its breathing movements.
  • Smoking affects the development of your baby’s lungs and brain.

When you quit your body can start to get rid of these chemicals and become healthier:

  • Within one day nicotine and carbon monoxide levels in your blood drop. More oxygen is crossing your placenta, vital for baby’s growth and development.
  • Within a few days, your vitamin C levels can improve – this is important for fighting infections and forming a strong birth sac.

The following are the known increased risks of smoking while pregnant:

  • Miscarriage
  • Complications during the birth
  • Having a low-weight baby who is more vulnerable to infection and health problems in adulthood
  • Pre-term delivery (birth at less than 37 weeks)
  • The baby being born with a cleft lip or cross-eyes
  • The baby being born with weaker lungs, which may persist into adulthood
  • The baby having a weaker immune system
  • The baby being overweight or obese in childhood

In rare cases the life of the baby may be endangered as smoking also increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and the risk of the baby dying at, or shortly after, birth.

If you can stop smoking before or during your first three months of pregnancy:

  • You reduce your risk of complications during the birth and have a better chance of a safe labour and birth for you and your baby.
  • You lower the risk that your baby will be born too early (babies born early are more likely to have serious health problems than babies born at or near their due date).
  • Your baby has the same chance of having a healthy birth weight as a baby of a non-smoker (babies who have a low birth weight as a result of smoking can have health problems because they are so small).
  • You reduce the risk of the baby suffering illness during their early years and of the baby dying at, or after, birth.

If you stop smoking later in your pregnancy:

  • Your baby has a better chance of having a healthy birth weight.
  • It helps your baby practice their breathing movements to get ready for birth.

There are many benefits of quitting smoking for you and your baby. It might be challenging, but there’s a lot of support available. Remember, quitting early on in pregnancy is best but quitting at any time gives your baby a better chance of a healthy start in life.

For more information, download Smoking and Pregnancy .

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