The Damaging Effects of Smoking on Babies

Cigarette smoke contains poisonous chemicals such as carbon monoxide and ammonia, which are absorbed into the bloodstream. When a pregnant woman smokes, these chemicals pass from her bloodstream into the baby’s blood. However, if the mother quits smoking before becoming pregnant, the effects of smoking on the baby are reduced. 

"I was smoking before I knew I was pregnant. How?" If you were smoking before you realised you were pregnant, focus on what you can do to improve the situation which is to quit smoking for good. 

What happens when the mother decides to smoke during pregnancy? The most damaging effects of smoking happen from the fourth month to the ninth month of pregnancy, when the baby’s lungs are developing.

What Smoking Is Doing to Your Baby

The health risks to your baby include:

  • lower birth weight
  • slower growth of your baby
  • higher risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • damage to airways which could cause breathing problems or asthma

The Health Risks Grow with Your Children

There are many dangers associated with passive smoking too. Tobacco smoke is harmful to our health; remember that secondhand smoke—and even exposure to thirdhand smoke—can also cause harmful effects to a healthy baby.

Children in a home where one or both parents smoke are at risk of:

  • frequent bouts of cold and coughs
  • asthma attacks or chest infections
  • meningitis
  • ‘glue ear’ and partial deafness
  • becoming smokers when they grow up
  • lung cancer when they are adults

The Perfect Time to Quit Smoking Is Now

If you’re thinking of quitting, you’re taking an important step in the right direction. Try these strategies to make sure you stop smoking for good:

  • have a quit plan
  • get the support of your family and friends
  • stay away from people, places and situations which might tempt you to smoke, at least for the first few days after quitting
  • avoid temptation; throw away all cigarettes, lighters and ashtrays
  • think of the healthy head start you are giving your baby when you stay smoke-free
  • change your daily routine to break up your habits and patterns
    • do things that require you to use your hands, like household chores, handicraft or gardening
    • nibble on healthy snacks (like carrot sticks or fruit) and drink plenty of water
    • exercise regularly. Regular exercise relieves stress and helps you cope with your pregnancy
    • learn relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises and muscle relaxation to relieve tension and stress
    • if you miss holding a cigarette in your hand, use some other object instead – like a pencil, paper clip, coin or toothpick
    • pregnant women can usually use Nicotine Replacement Therapy products no matter which week of pregnancy you are in, but do speak to your health professional first, to find out if it is right for you

Further Help and Information If You Are Struggling to Quit Smoking While Pregnant

To find out more about the help available to quit smoking and for advice on what methods and strategies would suit you best, please contact QuitLine 1800 438 2000.​

Visit Parent Hub, for more useful tips and guides for a healthy pregnancy.

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