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What Are the Effects of Smoking During Pregnancy on the Health of Mothers and Their Babies?

Most people know that smoking causes cancer, heart disease, and other major health problems. But women who smoke during pregnancy put themselves and their unborn babies at risk for other health problems. The dangers of smoking during pregnancy include premature birth (being born too early), certain birth defects, and infant death.

  • Smoking makes it harder for a woman to get pregnant.
  • Women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely than other women to have a miscarriage.
  • Smoking can cause problems with the placenta—the source of the baby’s food and oxygen during pregnancy. For example, the placenta can separate from the womb too early, causing bleeding, which is dangerous to the mother and baby.
  • Smoking during pregnancy can cause a baby to be born too early or to have low birth weight—making it more likely the baby will be sick and have to stay in the hospital longer. A few babies may even die.
  • Smoking during and after pregnancy is a risk factor of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), deaths among babies of no immediately obvious cause.
  • Babies born to women who smoke are more likely to have certain birth defects, like a cleft lip or cleft palate.

How Many Women Smoke During Pregnancy?

According to the 2008 Pregnancy Risk Assessment and Monitoring System (PRAMS) data from 29 states—

  • Approximately 13% of women reported smoking during the last three months of pregnancy.
  • Of women who smoked 3 months before pregnancy, 45% quit during pregnancy. Among women who quit smoking during pregnancy, 50% relapsed within 6 months after delivery.

For more statistics on smoking during pregnancy see: Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) and Smoking, Data from 2000–2008.

What Are the Benefits of Quitting?

Quitting smoking will help you feel better and provide a healthier environment for your baby.

When you stop smoking—

  • Your baby will get more oxygen, even after just one day of not smoking.
  • There is less risk that your baby will be born too early.
  • There is a better chance that your baby will come home from the hospital with you.
  • You will be less likely to develop heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, chronic lung disease, and other smoke-related diseases.
  • You will be more likely to live to know your grandchildren.
  • You will have more energy and breathe more easily.
  • You will have more money that you can spend on other things.
  • Your clothes, hair, and home will smell better.
  • Your food will taste better.
  • You will feel good about what you have done for yourself and your baby.

Quitting Smoking Can Be Hard, But It Is One of the Best Ways a Woman Can Protect Herself and Her Baby’s Health.

If you or someone you know wants to quit smoking, talk to your health care provider about strategies. For support in quitting, including free quit coaching, a free quit plan, free educational materials, and referrals to local resources, please call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669); TTY 1-800-332-8615.

More free help and support resources are available for pregnant women and others who want to quit for good.

What Are the Effects of Other People’s Smoke (Secondhand Smoke) on My Health and My Child’s Health?

Breathing other people’s smoke can make children and adults who do not smoke sick.

  • Pregnant women who breathe other people’s cigarette smoke are more likely to have a baby who weighs less than if they did not breathe other people’s cigarette smoke.
  • Babies who are around cigarette smoke are more likely to have ear infections and more frequent asthma attacks than babies who are not around other people’s smoke.
  • Babies who breathe in other people’s cigarette smoke are more likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) than are infants who are not exposed to cigarette smoke.

In the United States, 88 million nonsmokers aged 3 years and older are exposed to secondhand smoke. Almost 32 million children and adolescents aged 3–19 years, or about half of children in this age group, are exposed to other people’s cigarette smoke.


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