Smoking and pregnancy

In addition to increasing the mother’s risk of potentially serious complications, smoking during pregnancy is the largest preventable cause of ill health and death in young babies and infants.

It is linked to the following conditions:

  • pregnancy complications
  • premature delivery
  • low birth weight babies – a leading cause of infant death
  • stillbirth
  • miscarriage
  • sudden infant death syndrome (SID), also known as cot death
    • babies exposed to second hand smoke after birth are at twice the risk of SID
    • babies whose mothers smoked before and after birth are at three to four times greater risk of SID

Mothers smoking during pregnancy reduces their babies’ lung function.

Click here to download PDF of Give your baby a breather booklet and find out why smoking while pregnant is harmful for both mother and baby.

Low birth weight

Smoking cuts down the amount of oxygen and nutrients that get to the baby through the placenta. Your baby needs these to grow and develop, so babies of women who smoke tend to be smaller than they ought to be.

If you smoke all through your pregnancy, on average your baby will be almost half a pound lighter than if you’d been a non-smoker. It may not sound like much but size is critical. Smaller babies are at risk of infections and other health problems.

Don’t be misled into thinking a smaller baby means an easier delivery. The baby’s head won’t be much smaller, therefore the delivery will require the same effort on your part.

The nicotine from cigarettes can narrow the blood vessels, restricting the blood flow and reducing the supply of nutrients and oxygen to the baby.

The carbon monoxide from cigarette smoke can restrict the amount of oxygen available to the baby.