Smoking And Pregnancy

Smoking is very harmful in pregnancy and it is hugely beneficial for the baby if the mother is able to give up smoking before they start trying to conceive. The potential effects of smoking during pregnancy include:

  • increased risk of miscarriage and serious complications during pregnancy, including bleeding and ectopic pregnancy
  • increased risk of premature birth and low birth weight; on average, babies born to smokers are around 8oz lighter than babies born to non-smokers
  • increased risk of congenital birth defects, including cleft lip and palate
  • increased risk of stillbirth and early infant death (within the first week)
  • increased risk of the child developing asthma
  • delayed development and learning in children; studies suggest that children whose mothers smoke during pregnancy tend to attain lower grades in Maths than children whose mothers did not smoke during pregnancy
  • increased risk of cot death (sudden infant death syndrome)

If you smoke and you would like to try for a baby, it is advisable to try and give up as soon as possible; giving up smoking is never easy, but there is help available for you, whether you are trying for a baby or you have recently found out that you are pregnant. If you want help to try and quit smoking, contact your GP surgery.

Tips for giving up during or before pregnancy

Pregnancy is a major incentive for many women and their partners to give up smoking; if you’re hoping to give up smoking, here are some tips:

  • write down a list of reasons you want to give up and carry it around with you; when you feel like you want a cigarette, read your list and it will help you to remember why you are trying to quit
  • tell the people around you, so that they can offer you support and help you out by not offering you a cigarette when you visit or helping you to organise events, which don’t involve smoking
  • choose a date you want to give up and go for it; studies show that trying to quit altogether is more successful than trying to give up gradually
  • keep track of how many days you have been smoke-free and put the money you would have spent on cigarettes towards something for your new baby
  • try to avoid situations, which would usually involve smoking, such as going out with smokers on your lunch break or going to the pub for a drink after work
  • think positively and reward yourself at important milestones, for example after 1 week, 1 month, 6 months and 1 year
  • try to avoid other smokers for a while, until you feel confident that you can resist the urge to smoke
  • find out more about how smoking affects pregnancy, labour and the health and development of a baby; if you’re aware of the risks involved with smoking, this may give you a boost to stop 
  • get rid of all cigarettes from your house so that you’re not tempted to have just ‘one last smoke’
  • be realistic: nobody ever said it would be easy to quit and it will probably be hard and there will be moments when you just want to cave in and smoke; however, there are major benefits to be enjoyed at the end of the road and if you just take it day by day and give yourself credit for every milestone you make, you should be just fine; if you’re struggling, there are people there to help, so don’t be afraid to ask

Treatments, such as nicotine replacement therapy and group support sessions can be very helpful for women who are trying to give up smoking before they try to conceive; these therapies can also be beneficial for those who are already pregnant, as most doctors agree that the benefits of using NRT far outweigh the risk; ask your GP for details if you would like to find out more about treatment options. There are also medicines, which may be useful prior to pregnancy; examples include buprion and varenicline; both medicines are proven to help people quit but they are not safe for use during pregnancy. 

What to do if you smoke and you want to get pregnant

If you smoke and you would like to start trying for a baby, it is strongly recommended that you try and quit smoking before you conceive; smoking poses risks to the health and development of the foetus and increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and stillbirth and giving up will offer significant benefits to both you and your baby. If you want to try and quit, contact your GP for advice; they can talk you through some treatment options, put you in touch with local stop smoking support groups and provide you with information, which may be helpful. 

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