Smoking is an addiction and can be very very difficult to give up. Your healthcare provider can assist you with information and support to quit smoking.

Why you should quit smoking during pregnancy:

Every puff of a cigarette exposes women and their unborn babies to a cocktail of more than 4,000 chemicals, including those that cause cancer. Carbon monoxide (a toxic gas) and nicotine (the addictive chemical in cigarettes), reduces the amount of oxygen in the umbilical cord and placenta which decreases the vital nutrients required for a baby to grow.  This places unborn babies under an excessive amount of stress and they have to adapt by increasing their heart rate and decreasing their breathing and body movements.

Active and passive smoking during pregnancy exposes mothers and their unborn baby to serious complications such as:

  • Miscarriage
  • Ectopic pregnancy – (a pregnancy outside the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube)
  • Stillbirth
  • Premature rupture of membranes – (“waters breaking” before 37 weeks)
  • Premature labour (onset of labour before 37 weeks)
  • Placental Abruption (separation of placenta from uterus)
  • Placenta Praevia (placenta covering the cervix)
  • Low birth weight babies
  • Babies who are more susceptible to infections and health problems, such as asthma
  • Changes in the baby’s brain and lungs
  • Up to 3 times the risk of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI), which includes Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

The more cigarettes smoked during pregnancy increases the risk of complications for mothers and babies. However, there is no solid evidence that supports that decreasing the number of and/or strength of cigarettes smoked reduces the risks to the baby.

The best option for the improved health of mothers and babies is to stop smoking as early as possible. One day without a cigarette decreases the level of carbon monoxide and nicotine in a mother’s bloodstream. This allows for more oxygen to cross the placenta which is vital for a baby’s growth and development. A few days without smoking improves a mother’s Vitamin C levels, which helps to support a stronger immune system and fight infections.

Benefits of Quitting Smoking for your baby:

Quitting smoking has added benefits to the health and well-being of mothers and unborn babies. Women who stop smoking prior to conceiving or during the first three months of pregnancy, significantly reduce the risk of birth complications, premature labour/ birth, low birth weight, health complications for the baby, SUDI & SIDS.

Ceasing smoking later in pregnancy improves the chance of having a healthy birth weight baby and helps a baby practice breathing movements before they are born. The earlier on that women stop smoking the better the outcome for the baby, however quitting at any time gives a baby a better chance of a healthy start in life.

Approximately two- thirds of women, who stop smoking when they are pregnant, recommence smoking after their babies are born. Significant complications and implications remain when babies are exposed to cigarette smoke after they are born.

Smoking and breastfeeding:

Active smoking while breastfeeding results in:

  • Reduction in milk production, therefore increasing the chance of earlier weaning
  • Chemicals in cigarettes being excreted in breast milk, exposing toxins to babies
  • Decrease of Vitamin C in breast milk

It is important to note that even if you choose to continue to smoke, breastfeeding is always preferable than artificial/formula feeding.

Help to Quit Smoking:

If you or your partner are smokers we strongly encourage you to both discuss quitting with your Midwife, Obstetrician, GP and Quitline 13 78 48.

There is lots of assistance available to assist you to quit smoking, including the QUIT FOR TWO free app.  Your doctor can also discuss ways to assist you in giving up. QUIT provides a variety of resources and support for anyone needing assistance to give up smoking.


Better Health Channel – Smoking & Pregnancy

NSW Government Health Department Fact Sheet – Smoking & Pregnancy

Quit – Smoking & Pregnancy

The Royal Women’s Hospital Health Information – Tobacco