Common QuestionsQ: Don't some moms smoke during pregnancy and have healthy babies?
A: Every woman has a different and unique experience with her pregnancy, birth and baby. While no two experiences are alike, moms who smoke have a higher risk of health problems and complications for both herself and her baby. To read more, visit our page on smoking during pregnancy
. Q: Babies often weigh less when the mother smokes. Isn't it easier to deliver a small baby?
A: Low birth weight babies usually have more health complications than normal weight babies, and this can often make the delivery more difficult. Babies exposed to cigarette smoke while in the womb are often smaller because they tend to receive less food and oxygen than babies of moms who don’t smoke. To read more about this, click here to view our page on smoking during pregnancy
. Q: Does cigarette smoke get through to the unborn baby?
A: The mom and baby are connected through an organ called the placenta, which passes along things that the mom eats, drinks and breathes. When smoking during pregnancy, chemicals such as nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar are passed along to the baby through the placenta. Q: Does it matter when the pregnant woman quits smoking?
A: The best time to quit is when the woman thinks she will get pregnant in the near future. Or if she quits within the first three or four months of her pregnancy she can lower her baby's chance of being born too small or having health problems.
Even if a woman quits at the end of her pregnancy, there are benefits for her and her baby. It's never too late to quit or cut back. Please see our page on smoking after giving birth
for more information. Q: How about cutting down on cigarettes rather than quitting for good?
A: Cutting back on the number of cigarettes smoked per day is a great accomplishment. A woman who has been able to cut back should continue focusing on what has motivated her so far so that she can keep going until she has quit altogether if that is her goal. If a pregnant woman cuts down or switches to low-tar cigarettes, she must be careful not to inhale more deeply or take more puffs to get the same amount of nicotine as before. Q: Will a woman gain extra weight if she quits smoking during pregnancy?
A: Every woman’s body is different. It is important to remember that gaining weight during pregnancy is healthy and necessary. Before, during and after pregnancy, a woman can maintain a healthy body weight by eating healthy food, exercising and reducing or quitting smoking. Healthy food and exercise can help a woman manage her weight. Health care providers can help women plan how to eat right and keep active. To read more, see our pages on exercise
and nutrition. Q: 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 cut back. No matter how long she has been smoking, her body benefits from not smoking. She will feel better and have more energy to go through the pregnancy and to care for her new baby. To read more benefits of cutting back or quitting, click here
. Q: What about other people smoking around the pregnant woman?
A: When other people, including a woman’s partner, smokes near her during pregnancy, the second hand smoke gets through to the baby. The effects on the baby 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. See our pages on secondhand smoke
and partner support
to read more. Q: If a woman quits smoking during pregnancy, will she have a hard time handling the stress?
A: Cigarettes may seem like a good way to relieve stress, but in fact, smoking contributes to it. Research shows that stress levels actually go down once people quit. It is important for a woman who is quitting or reducing smoking to find other ways to relax and de-stress. Click here
to read more about stress during pregnancy and when cutting back or quitting.
Here are some other ways to manage stress before, during and after pregnancy:
Q: If a mom who smokes breastfeeds her baby, does the nicotine get into her milk?
- Exercise or go for walks
- Breathing exercises
- Listen to relaxing music
- Drink water
- Call a friend
- Schedule breaks or “me time”
- Do a fun hobby like sewing, baking or dancing
A: If the mom smokes, 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:
Q: Is it alright to go back to smoking after the baby is born?
- Avoid smoking just before or during breastfeeding.
- Change your clothes before breastfeeding if you have smoked.
- Wash your hands before breastfeeding if you have smoked.
- Cut down on the number of cigarettes that you smoke.
- Do not smoke around the baby.
A: Secondhand smoke, even for brief periods, may cause eye, nose and throat irritation. Depending on the amount of secondhand smoke, it might be similar to smoking 1 to 10 cigarettes a day. To read more about second hand smoke, click here
. Q: 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 susceptible to colds and lung infections. Research has also shown that children of parents who smoke are more likely to smoke when they get older and may be more likely to have behavioural or learning difficulties. Q: 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 suffer from anxiety find 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 postpartum can be a time when depression and anxiety have an impact on a woman. If depression or anxiety is a problem, it is a good idea to discuss it with your health care provider. Q: Can a pregnant woman use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products such as the patch, gum and inhaler?
A: There is little research on the effects of NRT in pregnancy. When a woman smokes, chemicals such as nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar are passed through the placenta to the baby, whereas only nicotine is present in NRT. Therefore, using NRT in pregnancy may protect the baby 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 the pros and cons of using NRT in pregnancy with your health care provider. Q: How can a partner or family member support a pregnant woman to stop smoking?
A: One of the most significant reasons that women relapse into smoking is a lack of support from their partner, friends and family. A partner’s smoking is one of the most powerful factors influencing a woman’s ability to reduce smoking or stay quit. Partners may not be aware that their smoking makes it more difficult for the woman to stop. Click here
to see our page on partner support where you will find tips on how to ask people in your life for support when you are cutting down or quitting smoking.