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Common Questions
Smoking During Pregnancy - Effects on the Fetus
Smoking During Pregnancy - Women
Smoking During Pregnancy - Partners

Smoking During Pregnancy - Effects on the Fetus
1. Why do some moms smoke during pregnancy and have healthy babies?  
A: Every woman has a different pregnancy, birth and baby. Moms who smoke have a higher risk of health problems and complications for both herself and her baby.  To learn more, read our page on smoking during pregnancy.
2. Babies often weigh less when the mother smokes. Isn't it easier to give birth to a small baby?
A: Babies with low birth weights usually have more health problems than regular weight babies, and this can often make giving birth more difficult. Babies that have cigarette smoke passed to them in the womb are often smaller because they do not get as much food and oxygen as babies of moms who don’t smoke. To learn more read our page on smoking during pregnancy
3. Does cigarette smoke get through to the fetus?
A:  A pregnant woman is connected to the fetus by an organ called the placenta, which passes along things that the woman eats, drinks and breathes. When smoking during pregnancy, chemicals from the cigarette such as nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar are passed to the fetus through the placenta.
4. If a woman who smokes breastfeeds her baby, does the nicotine get into her milk?
A: Nicotine will get into the breast milk. However, it is still okay to breastfeed when you are smoking.
Here are some tips if you are smoking and breastfeeding:
Don’t smoke just before or during breastfeeding. 
Change your clothes before breastfeeding if you have smoked.
Wash your hands before breastfeeding if you have smoked.
Reduce the number of cigarettes that you smoke.
Do not smoke around the baby. 
5. Are there any long-term harmful effects on the baby if the mother smokes during pregnancy?
A: There is some research that links smoking during pregnancy to health problems such as being more likely to get colds and lung infections. Research also shows that children of parents who smoke are more likely to smoke when they get older and may be more likely to have difficulties with learning and behaviour.  
6. Can a pregnant woman use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products such as the patch, gum and inhaler?
A: There is not much research on the effects of NRT in pregnancy. When a woman smokes, chemicals such as nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar are passed to the fetus  through the placenta.  NRT doesn’t have carbon monoxide or tar in it, just the nicotine.  So using NRT in pregnancy may protect the fetus from carbon monoxide, tar, and other chemicals. Carbon monoxide and tars are the more harmful substances in cigarettes. It is a good idea to discuss NRT in pregnancy with your doctor, nurse, midwife or doula.
Smoking During Pregnancy - Women
1. Does it matter when the pregnant woman quits smoking?
A: The best time to quit smoking is before the woman is pregnant, but quitting in the first three or four months of pregnancy can lower the chance of health problems for her baby.
Even if a woman quits at the end of her pregnancy, it helps her and her baby. It is never too late to quit or reduce smoking. Please read our page on smoking after giving birth to learn more.  
2. How about cutting down on cigarettes rather than quitting for good?
A: Reducing the number of cigarettes smoked per day is a great accomplishment. If quitting is your goal, you should continue to focus on what has motivated you to reduce your smoking so you can keep going until you have quit.  If a pregnant woman cuts down or changes to low-tar cigarettes, she must be careful not to breathe in more deeply or take more puffs to get the same amount of nicotine as before.
3. Will a woman gain extra weight if she quits smoking during pregnancy?
A: Every woman’s body is different. Gaining weight during pregnancy is healthy and necessary. Before, during and after pregnancy, a woman can keep a healthy body weight by eating healthy food, exercising and reducing or quitting smoking.  Doctors, nurses, midwives and doulas can help women plan how to eat well and keep active. To learn more, read our pages on exercise and nutrition
4. Does quitting smoking provide benefits for the woman as well as for her baby?
A: Pregnancy is a great time for a woman to quit or reduce smoking. No matter how long she has been smoking, her body benefits from not smoking. To read more benefits of reducing or quitting, click here.
 5. If a woman quits smoking during pregnancy, will she have a hard time with stress?
A: Cigarettes may seem like a good way to lower stress, but in fact, smoking can add to it. Research shows that stress levels go down once people quit. It is important for a woman who is quitting or reducing smoking to find other ways to relax and lower stress.   Click here to learn more about stress when reducing or quitting smoking and during pregnancy.
Here are some other ways to manage stress before, during and after pregnancy:
  • Exercise or go for walks
  • Breathing exercises
  • Meditation
  • Listen to relaxing music
  • Drink water
  • Call a friend
  • Plan breaks or “me time” 
  • Do a fun activity like sewing, baking or dancing
6. Is it alright to go back to smoking after the baby is born?
A: Secondhand smoke, even for a short time, may cause eye, nose and throat irritation. Depending on the amount of second hand smoke, it might be the same as smoking 1 to 10 cigarettes a day. To learn more about secondhand smoke, click here.
 7. Will depression and/or anxiety get worse if a woman tries to quit smoking?
A: About 40 - 60% of people with anxiety or depression smoke. Research shows that nicotine may make anxiety worse. In fact, people who have anxiety say they feel better within two weeks of quitting smoking.
Depression is more complicated. There is evidence that shows some people smoke as a way to help their depression while others find that smoking makes their depression worse. Others find their depression gets worse when they quit smoking.
Pregnancy and the time after giving birth can be a time when depression and anxiety really affect a woman. If depression or anxiety is a problem, it is a good idea to talk about it with your doctor, nurse, midwife or doula. 
Smoking During Pregnancy - Partners
1. What about other people or a partner smoking around the pregnant woman?
A: A partner can be a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, family member, friend or anyone close to the pregnant woman or new mom.  When other people, such as a woman’s partner, smoke near her during pregnancy, the secondhand smoke gets passed to the fetus. The effects of secondhand smoke on the fetus are similar to if she were to smoke herself. When a partner smokes, it can also make it much more difficult for the pregnant woman to quit and stay quit. A pregnant woman can ask her partner and other friends and family not to smoke near her. Read our pages on second hand smoke and partner support to learn more.
2. How can a partner or family member support a pregnant woman to stop smoking?
A: One of the main reasons that women return to smoking is because their partner, friends and family don’t support them.  A partner who smokes has a big impact on a woman who is trying to reduce smoking or stay quit.  Partners may not know that their smoking makes it more difficult for the woman to stop. Click here to read our page on partner support where you will find tips on how to ask people in your life for support when you are reducing or quitting smoking.