Baby on the Way? Keep Smoking at Bay
See also:alcohol , and chemicals from smoking can also pass through the placenta to your baby. Chemicals from smoke are absorbed into the blood from the mom’s lungs. Many of the chemicals are not only toxic but also interfere with the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the baby. These chemicals can cause serious and chronic illnesses in adults and children. In a developing baby, the chemicals can also affect how the brain, lungs, heart, and other organs develop. Some health issues may be seen at birth while others can develop later in a baby’s life. Fortunately, it is never too late to give your baby the best start to a healthy life.
Risks for Mother and BabyResearchers do not yet fully understand how every chemical in smoke affects a growing baby. But they do know that the health risks are high. If you smoke, you are more likely to have pregnancy complications that put both you and your baby at risk. Complications for you may include:
- Pelvic pain
- Early rupture of the membranes
- Placental problems, such as detachment , tearing, or slipping
- Premature births —If you quit smoking soon after becoming pregnant, your risk of having a premature birth becomes similar to that of mothers who are nonsmokers.
- Being born underweight
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders
- Congenital heart defects
Nixing the Nicotine NeedBy now you probably know that tobacco products contain nicotine, which is an addictive substance. When you first quit smoking, your body goes through withdrawal. You may develop physical symptoms such as lightheadedness, depression , headaches, tiredness, and sleep problems. The first few days after you stop smoking can be tough. The good news is that the withdrawal effects are temporary. Keep this in mind as you get through the first week. It will get better. If you have cravings, distracting yourself can help you overcome them. For example when you have a craving, do not immediately reach for a cigarette; instead try these distractions:
- Participate in activities. Go for a walk or try relaxation techniques like deep breathing.
- Drink water.
- Nibble on a healthy snack like vegetables or fruits.
- Suck on a hard piece of candy.
- Call someone who supports you in your goal to quit.
- Think about your reasons for quitting (your baby, financial reason, your own health). Everyone is motivated by personal reasons. Find what works for you.
- Have a hobby handy that you can do right away whenever a craving hits. Some hobbies to try are crossword puzzles, reading a novel, and knitting.
It’s Never Too LateThe earlier you stop smoking the better for you and your baby. It is never too late to stop. Even shortly after stopping your body will begin to recover:
- Within minutes your heart rate and blood pressure drop.
- Within 12 hours carbon monoxide levels in your blood return to normal (carbon monoxide decreases oxygen level in your body; it is a chemical that is also found in car exhaust).
- Within just a couple of weeks your circulation and lungs improve their function.
- Start with a quit date.
- Look for situations that tend to trigger smoking and avoid them or make plans for distraction.
- Assess your emotional reasons for smoking. You may actually find that smoking adds to your problems instead of providing relief. For example:
- You may smoke to relax, but it may actually be more stressful to find time, location, and money to smoke.
- You may smoke as a way to socialize, but smoking is now less socially accepted and you will often have to spend time away from the group when you smoke.
Keeping the Air ClearIf you do stop smoking during pregnancy, congratulations! Your hard work has given your baby a healthier start and improved your own health. Keep it up even after your baby is born. Smokers that breastfeed continue to pass chemicals like nicotine on to the baby through breast milk. Babies are also very susceptible to secondhand smoke.If you tried to quit but started smoking again, try again. Identify what it was that triggered your return to smoking and make a new plan around it. It may take more than one try but keep at it and soon you will be enjoying clear deep breaths while you hold your new baby.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
CDC Quit Smoking
Canadian Lung Association
Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada
Guide to quitting smoking. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/002971-pdf.pdf. Accessed September 13, 2013.
Medication and drug exposure in pregnancy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated August 13, 2013. Accessed September 13, 2013.
Smoking during pregnancy. March of Dimes website. Available at: http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/smoking-during-pregnancy.aspx. Updated April 2010. Accessed September 13, 2013.
Strandberg-Larsen K, Tinggaard M, Nybo Anderson AM, Olsen J, Gronbaek M. Use of nicotine replacement therapy during pregnancy and stillbirth: a cohort study. BJOG. 2008 Oct;115(11):1405-10. Epub 2008 Aug 20.
Tobacco use and pregnancy. Center for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/tobaccoUsePregnancy/index.htm. Updated August 9, 2013. Accessed September 13, 2013.
7/21/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: McCowan LM, Dekker GA, Chan E, et al. Spontaneous preterm birth and small for gestational age infants in women who stop smoking early in pregnancy: prospective cohort study. BMJ. 2009;338:b1081.
7/2/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Biering K, Aagaard Nohr E, Olsen J, Nybo Andersen AM, Juhl M. Smoking and pregnancy-related pelvic pain. BJOG. 2010;117(8):1019-1026.
7/6/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Alverson CJ, Strickland MJ, Gilboa SM, Correa A.Maternal smoking and congenital heart defects in the Baltimore-Washington Infant Study.Pediatrics. 2011;127(3):e647-653.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 09/2013
- Update Date: 09/13/2013