Smoking before and during pregnancy is the single most preventable cause of illness and death among mothers and infants. Smoking while pregnant increases the risk of having a baby that is born prematurely by 30%. It increases the risk of having a lower birth weight baby and increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Smoking while pregnant can also lead to an astonishing number of children's health problems, including pneumonia and asthma.
Nicotine crosses the placenta freely, along with other toxic constituents of cigarette smoke, including cyanide and carbon monoxide. Exposure of the fetus to tobacco smoke components in utero, either by active smoking by the mother or exposure to secondhand smoke, increases susceptibility to numerous health risks, such as:
Expectant mothers should be aware of the effect of their smoking on their unborn child, and be strongly encouraged to quit smoking.
Exposure to secondhand smoke causes premature birth and disease in children and adults who do not smoke. Secondhand smoke doubles the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and even passive smoke intake by pregnant women may have detrimental effects such as lower birth weights, spontaneous abortions, stillbirths, reduced infant lung function, and pregnancy complications.
Secondhand smoke can be absorbed through the skin of babies, inhaled and swallowed by babies and transferred by a hug from mother to baby. Warning all pregnant women about these risks can raise awareness and motivate change.
Find information about the susceptibility of infants and young children to secondhand smoke at The American Lung Association.
Read the Report of the Surgeon General concerning the Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke.
Go to the Surgeon General’s Report.
Chances of relapse for new mothers escalates. Help them stay smoke free by pointing them toward ways to get through times when they are most tempted. Find help at Withdrawal & Relapse.
Pregnant women who have received brief smoking cessation counseling are more likely to quit smoking. Clinicians should offer effective smoking cessation interventions to pregnant smokers at the first prenatal visit and throughout the pregnancy.
Providing tips and resources can double a smoker’s chances of quitting. Prenatal Care Providers can help begin the process of cessation by explaining the benefits for patient and baby and the key steps to quitting successfully. Get the You Can Quit Smoking tear sheet.
From the Surgeon General's Report
From the Center of Disease Control and Prevention