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Pregnant Women

Pregnant Smokers: A Critical Health Issue

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.

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Fetal Exposure to Secondhand Smoke

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.

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The Dangers of Secondhand Smoke

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.

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New Reasons for Concern

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The Surgeon General’s Report: The Health Consequences of Smoking

Go to the Surgeon General’s Report.

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Helping Pregnant Women Quit

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.

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Additional Links

From the Surgeon General's Report

Smoking Among Adults: Reproductive Health

Impact on Unborn Babies, Infants, Children, and Adolescents

Tobacco Use and Reproductive Outcomes

From the Center of Disease Control and Prevention

Division of Reproductive Health—Tobacco Use and Pregnancy

Preventing Smoking and Exposure to Secondhand Smoke Before, During, and After Pregnancy

National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities

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