Smoking and pregnancy

Smoking before or during pregnancy can cause serious problems. Smoking can cause pregnancy complications. It can also harm the health of the pregnant person and their baby.12 Complications and harms include:345

  • Pregnancy complications. Smoking doubles the risk of abnormal bleeding during pregnancy and delivery. This is dangerous for the pregnant person and baby. Other complications include the premature rupture of membranes, placenta previa, placental abruption, and ectopic pregnancy.
  • Stillbirth. Pregnant people who smoke are at greater risk of stillbirth. Stillbirth is the loss of a baby after the 20th week of pregnancy or during birth.
  • Poor fetal growth and low birth weight. Smoking slows a baby’s growth before birth. Pregnant people who smoke may deliver a baby that is too small, even after a full-term pregnancy.
  • Premature or preterm delivery. Pregnant people who smoke may deliver a baby early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Premature babies often have health problems.
  • Damage to a baby’s developing lungs and brain. Smoking can cause damage that can last through childhood and into the teen years.
  • Raising the risk for birth defects. Birth defects include cleft lip, cleft palate, or both. A cleft is an opening in a baby’s lip or in the roof of the mouth (palate). A baby with a cleft lip can have trouble eating. The baby will likely need surgery to repair the cleft.
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Smoking increases the risk for SIDS, the ‘sudden and unexplained’ death of a baby.

Smoking and fertility

Smoking can cause fertility problems. Smoking can make it more difficult for women to get pregnant and increases the risk of never becoming pregnant.34

Smoking also damage sperm. It can also lead to impotence (erectile dysfunction, or ED). Both problems can make it harder to father a baby.12

Secondhand smoke exposure and pregnancy

Secondhand smoke exposure is harmful during pregnancy and after the baby is born.3

  • Secondhand smoke exposure during pregnancy causes lower birth weight. It may also cause preterm delivery.
  • Babies exposed to secondhand smoke are at higher risk for SIDS. They are also at risk for ear infections, lung infections, and decreased lung function.

Quitting smoking can benefit pregnant people and their babies

Quitting smoking is important to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. The best time to quit smoking is before you try to get pregnant. The next best time to quit is as early in pregnancy as possible. But quitting at any time during pregnancy is helpful. It can help protect a pregnant person’s health and give babies a healthier start on life.5

Quitting smoking:5

  • During pregnancy reduces the effects of smoking on the baby’s growth.
  • Before or during early pregnancy reduces the risk for a small or lower birth weight baby.
  • May also reduce the risk of premature or preterm delivery and early menopause.

Quitting smoking can give your baby a healthier start on life.