Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to navigation Skip directly to page options Skip directly to site content

Smoking Can Cause Clefts

Man hugging pregnant womanAs part of National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month, CDC urges women to quit smoking before pregnancy to reduce the risk of clefts of the lip or palate in babies. For free help quitting, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

Although we don't know the causes of most orofacial clefts (clefts of the lip or palate) in babies, the 2014 Surgeon General's Report confirmed that smoking in early pregnancy can cause orofacial clefts in babies. This highlights an important prevention opportunity to improve the health of babies.1 Research has shown that about 6% of orofacial clefts in the United States are caused by smoking during early pregnancy. This means that over 400 babies could be born without orofacial clefts each year in the United States if women did not smoke early in pregnancy. Because these conditions often require numerous surgeries for repair, preventing orofacial clefts caused by smoking could save an estimated $40 million in healthcare costs each year for children up to age 10 years.2 Orofacial cleft defects happen very early in pregnancy, so quitting smoking before becoming pregnant is best.

Other Health Concerns

Most people know that smoking leads to cancer, heart disease, and other major health problems. However, women who smoke during pregnancy place themselves – and their unborn babies – at risk for even more health problems. Some of the dangers of smoking during pregnancy include premature birth, certain birth defects (like cleft lip and/or cleft palate and possibly some heart defects), and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Even being around cigarette smoke puts a woman and her baby at risk for health problems.

Infographic: Prevent clefs caused by smoking. About 6% of clefts of the lip or palate in the United States are caused by smoking during early pregnancy. Over 400 babies could be born without clefts each year in the United States if women did not smoke early in pregnancy. Preventing clefts caused by smoking could save an estimated $40.4 million in healthcare costs each year for children up to age 10 years. Quitting smoking before pregnancy is best. For help, visit cdc.gov/reproductivehealth or tobaccousepregnancy/resources.htm.

Quit Now

Quitting smoking before becoming pregnant is best. But for women who are already pregnant, it is never "too late" to quit smoking. Quitting after becoming pregnant can still help protect against some health problems, such as the baby being born at a low birth weight (less than 5 ½ pounds).

Quit for Good

It is important to quit smoking for good. Some women might think it is safe to start smoking again after their baby is born, but their babies are not out of harm's way. Babies who are around cigarette smoke have weaker lungs than babies who aren't around cigarette smoke. They are also more likely to have other health problems, such as infections and frequent asthma attacks. Being around cigarette smoke can also increase the risk of SIDS.

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 healthcare 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.

  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014. Printed with corrections, January 2014.
  2. Honein MA, Devine O, Grosse SD, Reefhuis J. Prevention of orofacial clefts caused by smoking: implications of the Surgeon General's Report. Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol. 2014 [epub ahead of print].

Help and Support

Help and Support

Top