Why It's So Dangerous to Smoke During Pregnancy

You've probably heard smoking is bad for baby—but why, exactly? We break it down.
profile picture of Kelly Kasper, MD
ByKelly Kasper, MD
OB-GYN
Updated
Mar 2020
cigarette put out ash tray

You know all that icky stuff in cigarettes—things like nicotine and tar and carbon monoxide? When you smoke, you’re delivering a dose of that nasty stuff straight to baby. You’re also compromising the amount of oxygen baby receives. So when you smoke, you’re effectively choosing to send harmful chemicals to baby instead of the oxygen he or she needs.

Babies born to moms who smoke are more likely to be premature and have low birth weight than babies born to non-smoking moms, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Smoking also increases the risk of miscarriage, problems with the placenta and birth defects, including cleft lip and palate, heart problems, club foot and defects of the eyes and digestive system. After birth, babies born to smokers are more likely to die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Wondering if electronic cigarettes are any safer to use during pregnancy? The answer is no. While the aerosol of e-cigarettes tend to have fewer harmful substances than cigarette smoke, e-cigs still contain nicotine, which is dangerous for the health of mom and can damage baby’s developing brain and lungs, the CDC says.

If those aren’t good enough reasons to quit, we don’t know what is. If you’re interested in quitting, talk to your healthcare provider. He or she can help you create a plan to manage your cravings and ensure your success. Your doctor might also be able to point you toward community resources that can help you quit. Some communities offer quit-smoking text messaging services that have been shown to help smokers kick the habit.

Plus, more from The Bump:

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