Smoking and Pregnancy

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If you’re pregnant, quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your baby, helping to give them a safe and healthy start to life. And the sooner you can stop, the better. Did you know that every cigarette you smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals that can harm your unborn baby? It means there’s no level of smoking during pregnancy that’s safe. Even cutting down on the number of cigarettes you smoke could still damage your baby’s health as well as your own – so stopping completely is the safest thing to do. We know giving up smoking can be a challenge. But reminding yourself why you’re quitting could give you the motivation you need to see it through. Learn more about smoking and pregnancy, including the benefits of quitting and how Nicorette® could support you along the way.

Benefits of Quitting Smoking While Pregnant

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When you quit smoking you should soon start to notice your health changing for the better – after just 20 minutes your pulse rate already starts returning to normal. Stopping smoking while pregnant will also help your baby immediately. That’s because when you smoke you breathe in a dangerous mix of chemicals. These include carbon monoxide, a gas that can be harmful to your baby as it changes the way your body uses oxygen. Once you quit, these start to clear from your system. There are lots of other possible benefits of quitting smoking while pregnant, including:

  • Less risk of complications in pregnancy and birth – Smoking can increase the chance of complications like having an ectopic pregnancy.
  • Giving your baby a healthy start – Smoking in pregnancy can slow your baby’s growth and lead to health problems like asthma.
  • Less risk of miscarriage – Smoking during pregnancy and exposure to second-hand smoke is linked to a higher risk of stillbirth, birth defects and miscarriage.
  • Less chance of a premature birth – This can help avoid any breathing, feeding or other health issues that can affect babies born early.
  • Your baby is more likely to be a healthy weight – Babies of smokers are around 200g (8oz) lighter than average, which can make it harder for them to keep warm and put them more at risk of infections.
  • Less risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) – Also known as cot death.
  • Saving money – Stopping smoking could leave you with more money to spend on things like decorating the nursery and helping with the costs of a new baby.

The benefits of quitting smoking when you’re pregnant start right away for your baby – and improve your health too.

Second-hand smoke and pregnancy

  • Secondhand smoke – which is when people around you smoke – can affect your baby both before and after they’re born. It can lead to stillbirths, miscarriages and birth defects.
  • Sharing a room, car or space with a smoker means you’ll probably breathe in their smoke. This can affect you and your baby as the harmful chemicals can linger in the air and still be there even five hours later.
  • Avoiding secondhand smoke in pregnancy can :
  • Increase the chance of your baby having a healthy weight
  • Reduce the risk of SIDS
  • Decrease baby’s likelihood of developing bronchitis or pneumonia during their first year
  • Help make stopping smoking easier for you

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How to stop smoking when you’re pregnant

When pregnant, quitting cold turkey is the best option. If you can’t manage this, NRT is an alternative. Speak to a doctor or pharmacist before taking medicine in pregnancy. Stopping cold turkey can be made easier by making a few small changes, such as:

  • Changing your diet – Some studies have shown certain foods and drinks can make smoking more satisfying
  • Identifying when cravings strike – Before giving in to your urge to smoke, plan what you'll do, such as going for a five-minute walk instead.
  • Stopping together – If your partner smokes, suggest you quit together. 

Speak to a doctor or pharmacist before taking medicine in pregnancy.

Stop smoking when pregnant with Nicotine Replacement Therapy

If you’re struggling to quit smoking cold turkey while pregnant, using Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) is a safer alternative to smoking. Before starting, you should talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist to make sure you’re making the best choice for you and your baby.

As NRT products only contain nicotine – with none of the harmful chemicals you get in cigarettes – they’re a safer option than continuing to smoke while you’re pregnant.

NRT works by providing your body with a low level of nicotine to help reduce unpleasant withdrawal symptoms and cravings that can strike when you stop smoking .

Fast-acting products can be best when you’re pregnant. These can be used intermittently to release quick bursts of nicotine and satisfy urgent cravings to smoke. Fast-acting NRT products include:

If you experience nausea and/or sickness while you’re pregnant, it might be better to use a slow-release nicotine patch such as Nicorette® InvisiPatch. Speak to a doctor or pharmacist before taking medicine in pregnancy.

Normally you use one or a combination of NRT products for eight to 12 weeks and gradually reduce your usage until you’re ready to go completely nicotine-free. If you’re pregnant though, it might be preferable to only use fast-acting products, to reduce intake as much as possible.

Learn more about Nicotine Replacement Therapy

Speak to a doctor or pharmacist before taking medicine in pregnancy

When to stop smoking when pregnant

The sooner you stop smoking, the better it should be for you and your baby. As soon as you ditch the cigarettes, harmful gases and chemicals start to clear from your body. If you’re not able to quit cold turkey straight away, using Nicotine Replacement Therapy can help reduce your nicotine intake and mean you’re no longer breathing in the chemicals found in cigarettes. Even if you’re really struggling to quit smoking while pregnant and don’t end up stopping until the last few weeks, it should still benefit both you and your baby.

How to stop smoking when breast feeding

  • The effects of smoking during pregnancy and after giving birth can still pose a risk when you’re breastfeeding, so it’s important to try to quit when your baby is born to protect them against:
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Breathing and behavioural problems
  • Ear disease and deafness

    You should first try to stop smoking ‘cold turkey’ – without using Nicotine Replacement Therapy. If you’re struggling, you can try fast-acting NRT products – but speak to a doctor, nurse or pharmacist for advice first.

    To protect your newborn, breast feed before using any NRT product, so they get the lowest amount of nicotine possible. This should be smaller than the amount they would receive if you smoked.

    If you struggle to stop smoking, it’s important you continue breastfeeding as it can help protect your baby from infection and provide them with vital nutrients.

    Find more on how to help conquer cravings so you can successfully stop smoking when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

    What are the effects of smoking during pregnancy?

    • The effects of smoking while pregnant vary but it can affect the growth and development of your baby. Smoking might increase the chance of health problems – both during your pregnancy and when you give birth – as well as increasing the risk of:
    • Pregnancy and birth complications
    • Stillbirth
    • Premature birth
    • A low birth weight
    • Sudden infant death syndrome

    Is light smoking during pregnancy harmful?

    There’s no safe level of smoking when you’re pregnant. Cutting down and smoking fewer cigarettes a day is still harmful, so the safest option is to quit smoking completely. Even second-hand smoke in pregnancy can affect you and your baby, both before and after you give birth.

    At what stage of pregnancy does smoking affect the baby?

    Smoking at any stage of pregnancy can affect your baby and continue to impact them as they grow up. It means the sooner you can stop the better. But at whatever point you stop, you and your baby start to benefit straight away. Stopping smoking really is one of the best things you can do for your baby – and for yourself.

    Medicines can affect the unborn baby. Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medicine in pregnancy. 

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