The negative effects of smoking before, during and after your pregnancy

Smoking can cause a greater risk of miscarriage and stillbirth.
Your baby is more likely to be born prematurely and with a low birth weight.

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When you smoke you inhale over 4,000 chemicals from the cigarette. One of these is a dangerous chemical called carbon monoxide, which gets into your bloodstream.

This restricts the oxygen that’s essential for your baby’s healthy growth and development, and because cigarettes restrict their oxygen supply, their tiny heart has to beat harder every time you smoke.


Smoking during pregnancy can damage your baby’s airways before it is born.

If you smoke during pregnancy your child may develop smaller airways, making them more vulnerable to breathing problems such as asthma.

Research has shown airflow through the breathing tubes is on average 20% lower in babies born to mothers who smoke.


On average, smokers have more complications during pregnancy and labour. This can include bleeding during pregnancy and placental abruption, which is where the placental lining separates from the uterus of the mother.

Women who stop smoking during the first three months of pregnancy have a lower rate of placental abruption and a lower rate of placenta praevia (where the placenta covers the cervix, preventing your baby from being born vaginally) compared to continuing smokers.

Smokers are five times more likely to develop eclampsia which is a major cause of maternal mortality in the UK.


When a pregnant woman smokes, some of the oxygen in her blood is replaced by carbon monoxide, restricting the supply of oxygen to the baby, which can affect the baby’s growth.

After birth & childhood

Your baby is more likely to have extra problems in keeping warm. Your baby is also more prone to infection during and after labour.

Your baby may cry more and be harder to settle.

Your child is more at risk of getting infections such as inflammation of the middle ear in childhood

Smoking during pregnancy can increase the risk of asthma and other chest infections in young children.

Your child is more likely to become a smoker as they get older.

How to get help

Stop smoking now and both you and your baby will get the benefits immediately.  The carbon monoxide and other chemicals quickly leave your body. It means there’s more oxygen in your blood, making you and your baby much healthier.

You’re up to four times more likely to quit smoking successfully with NHS support. Call the NHS Pregnancy Smoking Helpline on 0800 169 9 169 now to find out more about the free NHS support available to help you go smoke-free.

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