Quit, do not Wait: Why is Smoking Dangerous during Pregnancy?

Sep 23, 2019

“I’m on the twelfth week of pregnancy. Before this, I was smoking for 10 years (at least one pack a day). As soon as I learned that my husband and I will have a long-awaited child, I gave up smoking. I really didn’t want any complications, because it has taken a long time to get here (I wasn’t able to get pregnant for 3 years).

But my cheerful wish to quit smoking lasted for only 4 days, during which time I almost went mad. I was nervous, I cried, and made hysterics out of nothing. I couldn’t stand the stress and I had one cigarette. Then I succumbed again. For a couple of weeks I was smoking half pack a day. I was hiding this from my husband and relatives like a teenager, because everyone around me was sure that I had quit smoking.

After each cigarette, I cry and I swear to myself and to my child that I will never again touch this filthy habit, but after a couple of hours I smoke again. I am very afraid for my baby. I am afraid I am harming his health. But I cannot fight the addiction.

My friend assures me that during pregnancy it is okay to smoke, and that, on the contrary, it is not possible to quit suddenly – it is sort of a great stress for mother and child. But it is hard to believe – lots of children are born with chronic diseases. I don’t want to blame myself later on. I understand that I urgently need to quit smoking, but I cannot. The habit is stronger than me!”

– Alena, 28


In Russia, about 30% of women smoke, and about half of them do not give up the addiction even during pregnancy. [1] Some women are able to buck up and by the end of the first trimester to put cigarettes away, but there are also those who are unable to quit. This, despite the fact that a woman knows perfectly well about the negative health impacts of tobacco smoke. She will continue to smoke until the birth of her baby and then after. We consider an important question in this article: what harm does nicotine bring to a baby and mother? And the most important thing –  how can you quit smoking during pregnancy?


  • The harm of smoking during pregnancy
  • Smoking and pregnancy planning
  • Negative effects of smoking at all stages of pregnancy
  • How smoking affects the fetus
  • How to quit smoking during pregnancy: eight useful recommendations

The harm of smoking during pregnancy

Everything that a woman does and experiences during pregnancy directly affects the health of her baby. The mother’s and baby’s bodies are a single whole. When a mother takes another puff, a portion of nicotine is also received by the child in her womb. A baby seems to be in a smoke veil consisting of a huge amount of carcinogenic substances. All of them penetrate through the placenta.

Many women refer to acquaintances unable to find the strength to fight this pernicious habit – “My friend was smoking all her pregnancy, and she had a healthy baby”. Yes, in the first months of life, the physical condition of a baby may well be excellent. But there is a huge risk that all the consequences of the smoking will manifest themselves after a few years – at the active stages of  physical and mental development of the child.

Why do pregnant women continue to smoke, fully understanding how dangerous nicotine smoke is? The matter is not even in pleasure, which a cigarette gives, but in the formed physical and psychological dependence. When one cannot satisfy his/her desire, he/she feels unhappy. As a result, another cigarette jumps to the hands to relieve emotional tension.


Smoking is a learned behavior. But by working yourself hard, you can abandon the bad habit, replacing it with a healthy one.

Smoking and pregnancy planning

The majority of smoking women talk like this: “When I am pregnant, then I will quit, but not now…” This is the wrong approach to plan for the future of your child!

Smoking in women significantly reduces the impregnation ability. Specialists explain this by the fact that toxic substances negatively affect the reproductive functions of a future mother – there is a difficulty present in the movement of eggs in the uterine tubes and an inhibition of the actions of sexual hormones. According to studies, the probability of pregnancy in a smoking woman is 33% lower than in one who does not smoke (in the absence of serious internal diseases in both groups). [2]

The planning of conception illustrates a couple’s willingness to become parents. Both the man and woman should thus realize the importance of creating healthy conditions for the future of their baby in intrauterine development. And, of course, bad habits are not positive factors.


According to doctors, it is necessary to stop tobacco smoking at least 3 months before the planned conception. During this time, the woman’s body will get rid of a significant portion of the harmful substances accumulated from prolonged inhalation of carcinogens. In addition, the strong emotional stress caused by giving up cigarettes will not be apparent for the first trimester of pregnancy, when for a future mother it is so important to observe complete calmness. And if one attempt to give up the harmful habit is not successful, it is necessary to try again. [3]

The negative effects of smoking at all stages of pregnancy

Smoking is dangerous at every stage of fetal intrauterine development. Let’s look through the details about how smoking affects pregnancy.

  1. Smoking in the first trimester (from conception to 13 weeks)

Until the 14th week there is an active building of vital systems within a baby’s body. That is why smoking during the early months of pregnancy can cause irreparable harm to a child. All internal organs are formed as well as the umbilical cord, through which nutrients are supplied to the fetus and its products of vital activity are removed. A baby is moving already in the third month of pregnancy, which is not felt by the mother because of the small weight (about 30 g) and size (about 9 cm) of the fetus. Carcinogens entering a mother’s body can cause physical and psychological abnormalities in the development of her baby.

Often smoking during the early period of pregnancy becomes the cause of miscarriage – blood circulation in the emerging placenta becomes violated, and thus is the risk of detachment. A healthy lifestyle is especially important for those who have had complications during pregnancy in the past. [3]

  1. Smoking in the second trimester (from the 14th to the 27th week)

The second trimester of pregnancy is the period of active intrauterine growth of the baby. The brain and other organs continue to form, the immune system is gaining strength and the fat layer increases. A baby begins to move more actively, and mother already feels this.

A baby “breathes” through the placenta, which is already completely formed. When a pregnant woman smokes (especially a whole pack of cigarettes), the baby receives much less oxygen than required during normal pregnancy. This is when there is a risk of acute or chronic fetal hypoxia (oxygen starvation). Carcinogenic substances disturb the natural growth and development of the fetus. There is a serious threat of premature birth or fetal death in the womb. [3]

3.  Smoking in the third trimester (from the 28th week before birth)

Vital organs of the baby such as heart, brain, liver and kidneys continue to develop in the last trimester. There is an active accumulation of calcium, iron, protein, and antibodies in the small body. The way a future mother lives, will determine the health of her baby after birth, and influence the presence or absence of chronic diseases.

Smoking in pregnancy after 27 weeks provokes a serious risk for both mother and baby. A cigarette that has been smoked causes oxygen starvation of the fetus, which can bring severe damage to it. There is some data that the fetus does not gain weight actively if the mother could not give up her harmful habit. Nicotine at this stage provokes the state of hypotrophy in the baby – this is the mismatch of the physical development of a baby’s organs during pregnancy.

The baby will soon be born, but smoking can bring this moment closer, which is undesirable. In some cases, the habit becomes the cause of premature birth due to thinning and detachment of the placenta. This is a potential violation of the baby’s future growth and development.

According to scientists, the rate of premature birth among smoking pregnant women was 22%. For comparison: among non-smoking mothers, there are far fewer cases of early childbirth – just 4.5%. [1]


What is the effect of smoking in the third trimester on the health of a future mother? Women with the harmful habit have gestosis more often than non-smokers. This is a complication of normal pregnancy, which can manifest itself by edema, increased pressure, washout of protein from the body and convulsions. Gestosis can affect the development of the child, cause complications in childbirth, and in especially severe cases lead to the death of the woman. 

How smoking affects the fetus

“I’m 26. I became pregnant when I was 20. Before that I had been smoking for 4 years. I could not give up my nicotine addiction even when I learned about my pregnancy. I continued to smoke, without limiting the number of cigarettes. I didn’t care at all whether a pregnant woman can smoke or not or whether it is dangerous for the child. I did not listen to the persuasions of my husband and parents. The thing was – I did care about the health of my child. I just knew I couldn’t quit – I had tried many times before my pregnancy, but every time I was unsuccessful.

The pregnancy was going safely and this gave me hope.  I thought that it was not necessary to quit smoking if everything was normal with the baby. Only then I understood how badly I was wrong. Childbirth began much earlier than planned. But it was not critical, as it was already the 36th week. My daughter, Tanechka, was born. Everything was good at first, but a couple of hours after her birth, my baby was in intensive care. She could not breathe by herself and the doctors had to connect her to life support equipment. My Tanechka tried to breathe, but oxygen refused to pass into her lungs. A chronic pathology had been caused by my smoking throughout pregnancy. Only a few months later my daughter’s condition normalized. Now Tanechka is 5, and her health is normal, except for asthma.

I remember with horror the time I spent in front of the intensive care unit. I still feel a terrible guilt about my daughter. I am guilty that my Tanechka has a health problem”.

– Anna, 25


Many inveterate smokers explain their unwillingness to quit smoking after pregnancy by the presence of natural protection in a baby. Indeed, the placenta acts as a kind of filter that aims to prevent toxins and pathogenic microorganisms from getting to the fetus. But, unfortunately, about a hundred potentially dangerous tobacco combustion products can pass freely through the placental barrier, harming the baby.

What risks do smoking bring to the development of the fetus?

  1. Congenital malformations

Smoking can cause birth defects in a baby. Toxins entering the small body through the placenta lead to the development of chronic diseases of the heart and lungs, defects of the nasopharynx, the appearance of strabismus and the development of a hazy lip. [4]

  1. Physical development

A smoking woman during pregnancy risks having a baby far smaller than would be the case if she did not smoke. This can be explained by the fact that toxins disrupt blood circulation in the placenta, thereby slowing the intake of nutrients to the fetus. So a baby receives fewer vitamins and nutrients, which are insufficient for normal development.

After birth, it is possible for the baby to catch up the lack of body weight and height. But in many cases, children of smoking mothers do not catch up with their peers in physical development. They are sick more often because of weak immunity and they get tired faster. [4]

  1. Mental development of a child

Children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy may be more likely to lag in mental development from their peers as they get older. This is manifested in delay of speech, increased excitability and anxiety, inability to concentrate and an inability to express their thoughts according to age.

Congenital anomalies of mental development are manifested in the first six years of a child’s life. This is a very important period of development. The child may not be able to cope with the preparation for school in the future and may experience difficulties in studying. [4]

  1. Death of a baby

Nicotine intoxication leads to pathological changes in the fetus. Smoking women often have complications in childbirth. The risks of death of the baby increase during birth and in the first months after birth. Preterm children are in the group of high risk and it is not always possible to normalize the baby’s condition.

A serious danger to a baby with a smoking mother occurs in the first days of lactation. Cases of nicotine poisoning of newborns have been described. Also in such circumstances, a change in the shade of skin, bradycardia, apnea, vomiting after feeding and intestinal paresis have been observed. [1]

How to quit smoking in pregnancy: Eight useful recommendations

“Before pregnancy I had been smoking for 4 years (less than a pack a day). When I saw 2 stripes on the test, I decided to quit my harmful habit. But I really couldn’t give up abruptly – up to 8 weeks of pregnancy I smoked 2-3 cigarettes a day. It seemed to me that this was a reasonable compromise and I would stop smoking very soon.

Perhaps my smooth reduction would have lasted a long time. But soon I went to my first planned ultrasound. I saw a tiny point – my baby on the screen. The doctor let me to listen to the heartbeat. It was wonderful and the whole world turned over for me – finally I would become a mother, I had waited so long for it. Then I lost all the desire to smoke. I decided to quit immediately. I went out and threw my pack of cigarettes into the trash bin.

From that day I have not been smoking and soon I will give a birth. Yes, I still sometimes want to take a cigarette in my hands, but I am firmly anxious to have a healthy baby. I know how harmful nicotine affects the development of children”.

– Irina, 25

Ideally, you should quit smoking at the planning stage of your pregnancy. But even if this is an unplanned pregnancy, you should quit the harmful habit as soon as possible.

Researchers at the University of Auckland have checked whether there is a period during which a woman can quit smoking with minimal risk to herself and her baby. 2,500 future mothers took part in the study, one third of whom gave up smoking before the 15th week of pregnancy. Experts concluded that women who had given up their addiction by the end of the first trimester could prevent serious complications in the development of the fetus. They strongly recommend that all pregnant women to give up smoking before 15 weeks pass, since after that time the threats related to the health of the baby increase multiple times. The authors of the study noted another interesting fact.

Pregnant women who gave up smoking after getting pregnant had a level of stress, which was no higher than in those who continued to smoke or did not smoke at all. So it is time to stop believing in the myth that giving up nicotine will cause so much psychological stress that it will certainly harm the baby. Smoking is much more dangerous than any quitting syndrome!

In addition, the questionnaire revealed that women who smoked up to 5-10 cigarettes a day were more likely to quit in the first weeks of pregnancy than those who smoked one pack a day. [1]

Can pregnant women use various tablets, plasters, or sprays that help smokers get rid of nicotine addiction? Doctors are unanimous: drugs are not permitted in the fight against the harmful habit of future mothers. The fact is that such things cause as much harm to the health of a woman and a baby than smoking directly, because they can create an effect of nicotine overdose, which is extremely dangerous. All cigarette substitutes in their instructions carry a warning that they must not be taken in the period of pregnancy and lactation.


Do not believe the myth that you should not suddenly quit smoking during pregnancy. Start the fight against nicotine addiction once you have learned that soon there will be a small addition to the family. Even a gradual reduction of smoked cigarettes can stretch as far as the very birth. You won’t notice how the time to go to hospital has flown, but you haven’t yet stopped the harmful habit.

What recommendations will help pregnant women quit smoking?

  1. Learn more about the danger of smoking

Many women manage to give up smoking once they become pregnant. A great role here is played by the maternal instinct – a future mother from an early age realizes that she is responsible for the health of her baby. Therefore, she changes her old way of life, normalizing nutrition and abandoning harmful habits.

Do you really understand the full responsibility that lies on you? Then learn more about the dangers of smoking. Books, medical journals, and websites are suitable for many reliable statistics that show all the risks of smoking during pregnancy. Consult with your gynecologist or doctor and they will tell you how negatively nicotine influences the development of the fetus.

A friend who smoked like a chimney for the whole pregnancy and gave birth to a healthy child is not the best model to follow. Advice that it is okay to smoke during pregnancy (but just less than usual) is not supported by any medical research. Doctors are adamant – nicotine dependence is extremely dangerous. And it does not matter how many cigarettes you smoke per day – 1, 5 or 25.

  1. Change your habits

 Try to correct your established habits. Start by excluding the items you associate with cigarettes from your daily routine. These can be a variety of rituals – morning tea in silence, long conversations over the phone near the open window. It is not necessary to refuse everything pleasant, but at least change locations – nothing should resemble or remind you of cigarettes. Take breakfast not in the kitchen, but in another room. Talk over the phone not on the balcony, but in the bedroom.

  1. Be more active

Strenuous physical exercises during pregnancy are not recommended. But light exercises are beneficial  if your gynecologist has not identified any contraindications. Mild sporting activities are useful for the health of a pregnant woman. In addition, these will help distract from the thoughts about cigarettes and adjust the order of the day in which there should be no place for any smoking breaks.

Consult with your doctor to find the best physical programs that will not harm you or your baby.

4. Spend more time outdoors

Do not stay at home but walk more. This will help you to forget about the bad mood associated with cigarette rejection syndrome. Your blood will be filled with oxygen, which means toxins, which have accumulated during the years of smoking, will leave the body faster. In addition, slow walks are an excellent prevention of edema during pregnancy and will strengthen your immunity.

5. Ensure a rigid deadline

You can’t quit smoking suddenly? Try another method. By reducing the number of cigarettes smoked, set a clear framework for yourself and set the date when cigarettes will be permanently done with. This will allow you to tune in to quitting the bad habit with the least psychological resistance.

Having reached the deadline, quit smoking forever! There is no need to set another date, thereby delaying the process of eliminating nicotine. Try to quit smoking before pregnancy or in the first trimester to minimize all risks.

6. Eliminate all irritating factors

Why do people who have given up smoking return to this addiction again? Stress is often the cause. Smoking is a learned behavior model: you have learned to smoke to calm down, to relieve stress.

To avoid disruptions, you should avoid irritating factors that can lead to an imbalance. This in any case is beneficial: a stressful state of a future mother negatively affects the development of her fetus. Be calm, don’t be nervous about small things, be distracted from problems with a hobby and outdoor walks.

7. Look for the support of your loved ones

Relatives will insist that you quit the bad habit as soon as possible. They all want only what is good for you, so listen to what close people tell you. Husband, parents, friends will certainly support you. It is so much easier to fight against nicotine addiction with support.

But if friends or close family members smoke in your presence, ask them not to. First, passive smoking is also dangerous for a mother and a baby. And secondly, in this case the temptation for you to smoke increases, which will disrupt all plans to quit cigarettes.

Take advantage of the 7Spsy behavior modification technique

The harm of smoking for a future mother and a baby is obvious. But in some cases, when dependence has already completely taken over a woman, neither studying medical statistics on the dangers of smoking during pregnancy, nor the abrupt refusal of cigarettes will help get rid of the harmful habit.

If you understand that you can’t manage yourself alone, ask a psychologist for help. Do this as soon as possible to minimize all the risks associated with child-bearing while smoking.

The 7Spsy behavior modification technique shows great results in the fight against various dependencies, including smoking. This is a patented technique based on the theories of famous scientists – I.P Pavlov, B. F. Skinner, A. A. Ukhtomsky.

Taking the course will help you master healthy behavior by giving up smoking in a short time. You will then provide your baby with a favorable environment for growth and development. By taking the training and following the recommendations of the psychologist, you will replace negative behavioral attitudes with positive ones. There will be an understanding that nicotine addiction poisons you and your baby. You will learn to resist the strong desire to smoke.

The 7Spsy behavior modification technique course is designed for up to 6 weeks. If you do not miss the time, by the end of the first trimester you will forget about the addiction even with an impressive experience of tobacco smoking. Participation in the training is confidential. Therefore, if for some or other reason you do not want to tell your close ones of the existing problem, you do not need to. You will be able to take the training in a convenient remote mode – specialists will answer all questions and consult you by e-mail, in chat rooms and by phone.


Information from this website cannot be used for self-therapy and self-diagnostics. 

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