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The effects of smoking for pregnancy

Pregnant woman eating cereal in bed
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If you’re trying to get pregnant, or already are, there are lots of things you can do and may want to do to support the growth of your baby. From taking supplements to changing your diet and leading a healthier lifestyle which can include giving up smoking. We know how important it is to have a healthy pregnancy and baby, that’s why we want to support mums at every stage of the process.

So, if you smoke, you may be wondering how smoking affects pregnancy and whether you should give up smoking while you’re pregnant. Read on to find out more about the effects of smoking during pregnancy and after birth.

Can smoking and drinking affect a pregnancy test?

Pregnancy tests measure for the hormone human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) in your urine, which is produced around 6 days after an egg is fertilised. Although some medication can affect the accuracy of pregnancy tests, alcohol and smoking don’t affect the production of hCG. Drinking lots of liquids before you take a test can dilute your urine, so it’s best to take a pregnancy test when you first go to the toilet in the morning as hCG levels will be higher if you’re pregnant.

If you’ve had a positive test you should talk to your GP, they may want you to do another test to make sure, Your GP can offer you advice around next steps, as well as lifestyle changes you could make to support your pregnancy.

Can you smoke in pregnancy?

How you look after yourself during pregnancy is your choice, but one of the best things you can do for you and your baby is to stop smoking. Smoking while pregnant is not only harmful to you but your baby as well. Your GP and midwife will explain to you the ways you can best support your pregnancy as well as things you may want to avoid. It’s important that you’re aware of the effects smoking can have on you and your baby so you can make the right choice for your family.

What does smoking do to an unborn baby?

Smoking while you’re pregnant can cause complications and increase your risk of:

  • Miscarriage
  • Ectopic pregnancy where the pregnancy develops outside of the womb
  • Stillbirth or baby becoming seriously unwell after birth
  • Abnormalities such as face defects or growth problems
  • Possible health problems as they get older
  • Premature birth
  • Bleeding during the last few months of pregnancy due to the placenta separating from the uterus too early
  • Lower birth weight which is unhealthy for your baby

All of these can seem really scary, and they are serious issues that can arise if you smoke while you’re pregnant. That’s why it’s important that you quit smoking while pregnant to ensure your baby is born as healthily as they can be.

Stopping smoking will also help to support your baby after they’re born, as children whose parents smoke are more likely to experience other illness and conditions such as asthma.

How does smoking during pregnancy harm the baby

The NHS states that cigarettes contain over 4,000 chemicals which can harm you and your unborn baby. If you smoke during pregnancy it restricts the oxygen supply to your baby which they need to support healthy development. A smaller amount of oxygen and harmful gasses created by smoking travel from the placenta to your baby which means that their heart must beat harder every time you smoke. This can put a lot of pressure and stress on your baby’s organs as they develop.

When to stop smoking when pregnant

We know how hard quitting can be, especially if you’ve been smoking for a long time. At first you may want to cut down the number of cigarettes you smoke, although this may be easier, stopping completely is the best choice for you and your baby.

You can stop smoking at any point during your pregnancy, although the sooner you do the better it’ll be for you and your baby. If you’re trying to have a baby, you may want to consider stopping smoking even before you get pregnant. Our in-store Stop Smoking Service can help with advice from our pharmacist and stop smoking product recommendations tailored to you.

How does smoking affect pregnancy in the first trimester?

One of the most important things you can do for your baby is to quit smoking, the earlier the better. Smoking at any stage of pregnancy can harm your baby but smoking during the first trimester can affect how your baby develops throughout the second and third trimester. Smoking affects the birth weight of your baby causing it to be lower than it should be. Smoking can also mean your baby is shorter in length and that their brain is smaller compared to babies whose mother isn’t a smoker. This could mean that there are issues at the birth, or they have complications as they get older.

Can smoking in early pregnancy cause miscarriage

Smoking while pregnant can increase your risk of having a miscarriage. Studies show that the risk of miscarriage increases relative to the number of cigarettes smoked per day. So, if you’re thinking of getting pregnant or are pregnant you may want to start cutting down the amount you smoke or quit completely. Your midwife will be able to offer advice and the types of Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) you can try from patches to gum. You can also speak to a pharmacist in your local LloydsPharmacy about our Stop Smoking Service. We’re here to help you stop smoking whenever you’re ready.

How to stop smoking in pregnancy and following childbirth

We’re here to help you stop smoking before you’re pregnant, throughout your pregnancy and when your little one arrives. Becoming smoke free may not be easy but the benefits to you and your baby will be worth it, especially as you can reduce the chance of your baby having any developmental issues. There are services and products you can use to help you quit smoking which can be prescribed by your GP or bought over the counter in your local pharmacy.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) is safe to use while you’re pregnant as they don’t contain the tar or chemicals which make smoking dangerous. Simply choose from nicotine gum, sprays or patches. Just make sure to speak to your midwife, GP or a pharmacist before you use these stop smoking products. Why not try our stop smoking online tool and find the right product for you today.

Stop smoking tool

It’s also advised that you stay smoke free after you have your baby so you can protect them from secondhand smoke which can lead to health complications such as asthma. If your partner smokes you can ask them to quit with you or avoid smoking around you. When you decide to quit smoking it’s best to let family and friends know so they can help support you during your pregnancy and afterwards.

References

www.women.smokefree.gov/pregnancy-motherhood/quitting-while-pregnant/myths-about-smoking-pregnancy
www.women.smokefree.gov/pregnancy-motherhood/smokefree-motherhood
www.rcog.org.uk/en/patients/patient-leaflets/smoking-and-pregnancy/
www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pregnancy-test/
www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/pregnancy/how-accurate-are-home-pregnancy-tests/
www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pregnancy-test/
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532950/
www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/smoking-pregnant
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3969532/
www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-02/uoef-qsd022620.php