When you smoke your baby smokes
One of the most important things you can do for your baby’s health, growth and development is to give up smoking. It is also important to your own long-term health.
If you are a smoker, or have very recently quit smoking, your midwife will refer you to our team of friendly Best Start in Life Advisors. You will be allocated an advisor for the duration of your pregnancy; their role is not only to support you to achieve a smokefree pregnancy but to also provide you with individualised care and offer support and guidance on a variety of health-related topics which are important to you and your growing baby.
We know that giving up smoking can seem hard but it is possible and we're here to help. No judgement, just support.
Laura smoked 30 a day but quit with the support of her Northumbria midwife to give her baby the best start in life. If she can do it, you can too! Here's her story...
A baby that is small due to smoking is not a healthy baby
Babies in the womb can be harmed by tobacco smoke as it reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients that pass through the placenta from you to your baby.
Smoking while pregnant can lead to increased health risks for your baby including:
- Being underdeveloped or have a low birth weight
- Miscarriage or still birth
- Premature birth
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Cot death
- Respiratory (lung) problems such as asthma, chest infections and pneumonia
When you stop smoking both you and your baby will reduce these risks and quickly feel the benefits.
During your first antenatal appointment you will be asked if you, or anyone living in your household, smokes and if so how much.
At each appointment you will be asked to have a breath test to measure your level of exposure to CO carbon monoxide (CO). This is a poisonous gas that restricts the amount of oxygen getting to your baby, and levels are higher in women who smoke and in passive smokers.
This is so you and your family can be supported to stop smoking as early as possible.
There is no safe level of smoking for you or your baby. The earlier you stop smoking the better it will be to you both, but stopping at any time during pregnancy is beneficial.
Reducing the amount of cigarettes you smoke is a good step, but you and your partner will be advised to stop completely and will be offered support of specialist stop smoking services.
If you are around people who smoke you will be exposed to second hand smoke – this is called passive smoking. This is still dangerous for you and your baby as you are inhaling harmful toxins.
Unborn babies exposed to smoke in this way have increased risk of premature birth, still birth and their growth being affected.
Babies and children should always be in a smokefree environment. Try to avoid smoky places and being near smokers – and ask those that do smoke to do it outside and not near you.
E-cigarettes are battery powered devices that deliver nicotine through inhaled vapour. They don’t contain tobacco so you aren’t exposed to tar or carbon monoxide which are the main toxins found in cigarettes.
The vapour from an e-cigarette does contain some of the chemicals found in cigarette smoke but at much lower levels.
As e-cigarettes are fairly new there are still some things we don’t know about them, but current evidence indicates they are much less risky than smoking.
If using one helps you to give up smoking , it is less harmful for you and your baby than continuing to smoke.
Nicotine is what you get addicted to when you smoke, Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) products can help you tackle your dependence on nicotine. NRT is a medicine that still provides nicotine but in lower doses and without the tar and damaging chemicals present in cigarettes, so is a safer option than continuing to smoke. It is available as:
- Skin patches
- Chewing gum
- Oral strips and lozenges
- Nasal and mouth sprays
Although you can use NRT when you are pregnant, before using any product we suggest you speak to your midwife, GP, a pharmacist or a specialist stop smoking adviser who may be able to offer access to the products for free.
The sooner you stop smoking, the better for you and your baby