Smoking, Pregnancy, and Babies
Most people know that smoking causes cancer and other major health problems. And smoking while you’re pregnant can cause serious problems, too. Your baby could be born too early, have a birth defect, or die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Even being around cigarette smoke can cause health problems for you and your baby.1
It’s best to quit smoking before you get pregnant. But if you’re already pregnant, quitting can still help protect you and your baby from health problems. It’s never too late to quit smoking.2
If you smoked and had a healthy pregnancy in the past, there’s no guarantee that your next pregnancy will be healthy. When you smoke during pregnancy, you put your health and your baby’s health at risk.3
Smoking can cause fertility problems for you or your partner. Women who smoke have more trouble getting pregnant than women who don’t smoke. In men, smoking can damage sperm and contribute to impotence (erectile dysfunction, or ED). Both problems can make it harder for a man to father a baby when he and his partner are ready.3, 4
- Your baby may be born too small, even after a full-term pregnancy. Smoking slows your baby’s growth before birth.
- Your baby may be born too early (premature birth). Premature babies often have health problems.5
- Smoking can damage your baby’s developing lungs and brain. The damage can last through childhood and into the teen years.4
- Smoking doubles your risk of abnormal bleeding during pregnancy and delivery. This can put both you and your baby in danger.5
- Smoking raises your baby’s risk for birth defects, including cleft lip, cleft palate, or both. A cleft is an opening in your baby’s lip or in the roof of her mouth (palate). He or she can have trouble eating properly and is likely to need surgery. 1,4
- Babies of moms who smoke during pregnancy—and babies exposed to cigarette smoke after birth—have a higher risk for SIDS.1
If you smoke during pregnancy, you are more likely to give birth too early. A baby born 3 weeks or more before your due date is premature.5 Babies born too early miss important growth that happens in the womb during the final weeks and months of pregnancy.6
- Low birth weight
- Feeding difficulties
- Breathing problems right away
- Breathing problems that last into childhood
- Cerebral palsy(brain damage that causes trouble with movement and muscle tone)
- Developmental delays (when a baby or child is behind in language, thinking, or movement skills)
- Problems with hearing or eyesight
Premature babies may need to stay at the hospital for days, weeks, or even months.5
The best time to quit smoking is before you get pregnant, but quitting at any time during pregnancy can help your baby get a better start on life. Talk to your doctor about the best ways to quit while you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant.
When you stop smoking:1
- Your baby gets more oxygen, even after just 1 day.
- Your baby will grow better.
- Your baby is less likely to be born too early.
- You’ll have more energy and breathe more easily.
- You will be less likely to develop heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, lung disease, and other smoking-related diseases.
Most pregnant women who smoke want to quit, but quitting isn’t always easier during pregnancy. What’s more, if you’re pregnant and still smoking, you may feel ashamed and alone.
The right kind of support can help a pregnant woman to get through the unique challenges of quitting during this phase of life. Special guidance is available for you and for the people around you. These resources include:
- Feelings, Partners, and FriendsExternal
- 12 Ways to Help Her Quit SmokingExternal
- Pregnancy, Motherhood, and SmokingExternal
- Fewer coughs and chest colds
- A lower risk for bronchitis or pneumonia (lung problems)
- Fewer ear infections
- Fewer asthma attacks and wheezing problems
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tobacco Use and Pregnancy [last updated 2017 Sep 29; accessed 2018 Mar 22].
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pregnant? Don’t Smoke! [last updated 2017 Nov 13; accessed 2018 Mar 22].
- National Cancer Institute. 4 Reasons Why Quitting Matters When You’re PregnantExternal [accessed 2018 Mar 22].
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Let’s Make the Next Generation Tobacco-Free: Your Guide to the 50th Anniversary Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health. Cdc-pdf[PDF – 795KB]External Atlanta: 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 [accessed 2018 Mar 22].
- National Cancer Institute. Smoking, Labor, & Delivery: It’s ComplicatedExternal [accessed 2018 Mar 22].
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Preterm Birth [last updated 2017 Nov 27; accessed 2018 Mar 22].
- Been JV, Lugtenberg MJ, Smets E, van Schayck CP, Kramer BW, Mommers M, Sheikh A. Preterm Birth and Childhood Wheezing Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PLOS Medicine 2014 Jan 28.External DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001596 [accessed 2018 Mar 22].
- Harju M, Keski-Nisula L, Georgiadis L, Räisänen S, Gissler M, Heinonen S. The Burden of Childhood Asthma and Late Preterm and Early Term Births.External The Journal of Pediatrics 2014;164(2):295–9 [accessed 2018 Mar 22].
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A Report of the Surgeon General. How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: What It Means to You. Atlanta: 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, 2010 [accessed 2018 Mar 22].
- National Cancer Institute. Smoking & Your BabyExternal [last updated 2019 Jan 28; accessed 2019 Jan 25].
Amanda smoked while she was pregnant. Her baby was born 2 months early and was kept in an incubator.
“I’ll never forget her tiny, little cry. It wasn’t like the cries you hear; you know—a loud, screaming, typical baby cry. It was just this soft, little cry.”