489147 Health Library | Health and Wellness | Wellmont Health System
  • Baby on the Way? Keep Smoking at Bay

    image for infant eating article Through your pregnancy a few simple cells will grow to form your baby. Organs like the heart, lungs, and brain go through intense periods of development. You can imagine how important it is to have the right building blocks for all of this growth. Nutrients and oxygen that support a growing fetus are passed from mother to fetus through an organ called the placenta.
    Unfortunately dangerous substances like drugs, alcohol, and chemicals from recreational 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 impair development. 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 Baby

    Researchers 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 include:
    Also smoking while pregnant puts your baby at a higher risk for serious complications such as:

    Nixing the Nicotine Need

    By 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 dizziness, 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.
    Talk to others that have successfully quit and ask how they did it. Some programs and smoking cessation tools can also help you gradually decrease your nicotine levels. However, certain smoking cessation products like nicotine gum or patches may not be safe while pregnant. Talk to your doctor to find the right balance.
    Remember that while you are pregnant, your baby is also exposed to nicotine through the placenta. If you smoke while pregnant, your baby will have nicotine withdrawal symptoms after she is born. This can make your baby more jittery, nervous, and harder to soothe.

    It’s Never Too Late

    The 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.
    As you get healthier, so does your baby.
    Make a plan to quit smoking:
    • 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.
    Remember, if you are making changes to give your baby a healthy start, those around you should help out as well. Secondhand smoke you inhale introduces the same type of chemicals. If you live with a smoker ask the person to stop or smoke outside.

    Keeping the Air Clear

    If 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 http://www.acog.org/publications/patient%5Feducation/bp171.cfm

    American Lung Association http://www.lungusa.org/

    CDC Quit Smoking1-800-QUIT-NOW (1800-784-8669) http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/quit%5Fsmoking/index.htm

    Nicotine Anonymous http://www.nicotine-anonymous.org/

    Smoke Free http://www.smokefree.gov/


    Canadian Lung Association http://lung.ca/

    Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada http://www.smoke-free.ca/


    Guide to quitting smoking. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/PED/content/PED%5F10%5F13X%5FGuide%5Ffor%5FQuitting%5FSmoking.asp#Additional%5Fresources. Accessed April 27, 2009.

    Preventing smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke before, during, and after pregnancy. Center for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/publications/factsheets/Prevention/smoking.htm. Accessed April 27, 2009.

    Smoking during pregnancy fact sheet. March of Dimes website. Available at: http://www.marchofdimes.com/professionals/14332%5F1171.asp. Accessed April 27, 2009.

    Smoking and pregnancy. American Lung Association website. Available at: http://www.lungusa.org/site/pp.asp?c=dvLUK9O0E&b=33573. Accessed April 27, 2009.

    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. Accessed April 27, 2009.

    7/21/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php: 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 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance: 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 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance: 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.

    Revision Information

  • Join WellZones today.

    Make a Change For LifeLearn more

    Wellmont LiveWell is creating a new tradition of wellness in the mountains by providing individuals with tools and encouragement to live healthier lifestyles.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease early and prevent heart attacks with HeartSHAPE® - a painless, non-invasive test that takes pictures of your heart to scan for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.