Answers to 8 common questions about smoking and pregnancy
Quitting tobacco is one of the best things that expectant mothers can do for their health and the health of their babies.
What makes quitting so important at this stage? We turned to the experts behind BecomeAnEX®, a digital quit-smoking program by Truth Initiative® and developed in collaboration with Mayo Clinic, for answers to eight common questions about smoking and pregnancy.
Is it too late to quit smoking if I’m pregnant or trying to conceive?
While quitting smoking before you get pregnant or as soon as you find out is best, quitting at any time has benefits for you and your baby.
Why is quitting good for my baby?
Once you stop smoking, all kinds of good things happen for your baby. Quitting increases the amount of oxygen your baby will get, helping the baby develop and grow properly, and increases the chances your baby’s lungs will work well. Quitting also lowers the risk of several major complications, including premature birth (especially if you quit in the first trimester), low birth weight and miscarriage or stillbirth.
Why is quitting good for me as an expectant mom?
Quitting reduces the risk of many pregnancy-related problems, including your water breaking too soon, ectopic pregnancy, infection, placental abruption (where the placental lining separates from the wall of the uterus) and pregnancy-induced high blood pressure.
For those trying to get pregnant, quitting increases fertility, so it’s easier to conceive.
What about after my baby is born?
Quitting smoking is just as important after your baby is born. Quitting before or during pregnancy can improve the health of your baby even as he or she grows older. If you stay quit, your newborn will be at lower risk for chest colds, coughs, ear infections and asthma problems caused by exposure to secondhand smoke. You’ll also lower your baby’s risk for sudden infant death syndrome.
In addition, quitting smoking reduces the chances that your baby will be overweight or obese as he or she grows up, have behavioral disorders or attention deficit disorder later in life or develop high blood pressure.
So, what can I do to quit?
Deciding to quit is the most important step in quitting. If you decide to quit while you’re pregnant, and plan to stay quit afterwards, you’re more likely to stay quit after you have your baby.
It’s important to have support while you’re quitting. The good news is you can get support from a lot of places. Your friends and family, a health care provider or counselor or the BecomeAnEX Community are all great options for support. Check out the BecomeAnEX “Re-learn support” page for more tips and tools for getting the support you need.
Can I use medications to help me quit while I am pregnant?
You should always check with your health care provider before starting any new medication. There is some evidence that nicotine replacement therapy, like patches, gum and lozenges, may have negative effects on a developing fetus. However, the risks of smoking are certainly greater than the risks from NRT. NRT may be the extra help you need to quit, especially if you are a heavy smoker. You will need to discuss the risks and benefits with your health care provider to make the best decision for you.
There are two non-nicotine medications that improve smoking cessation: bupropion (Zyban) and varenicline (Chantix). In animal studies of bupropion scientists have found some evidence of impact on fetal development, but no evidence of harm in studies of humans. There are no studies about fetal effects from Chantix. If you are interested in using either of these medications while you’re pregnant, talk to your health care provider.
Will I gain a lot more weight when I quit because I’m pregnant?
If you’re worried about weight gain, remember that putting on some weight during pregnancy is normal. This makes pregnancy an even better time to quit. The weight you gain is far less harmful than the risk to you and your baby from smoking.
As long as I quit while I’m pregnant, can I have a cigarette once in a while after my baby is born?
Unfortunately, any smoking is harmful to you and your baby. Most people who smoke after quitting for a long time do not plan to start regularly smoking again. They assume they can just smoke occasionally. But for many people, the first or first few cigarettes cause changes in your body and brain that make cravings to smoke much stronger. Because of how nicotine addiction works, it may not be possible for people who were regular smokers to switch to occasional smoking.
Also, there are a lot of benefits to life after quitting. You’ll have more energy. You’ll save lots of money that you can spend on other things. Your clothes, hair and home will smell better. Your food will taste better. And, perhaps more than anything, you’ll feel great knowing what an important thing you’ve done for yourself and the people you love.
To learn more about pregnancy and smoking, and to make a quit plan, visit BecomeAnEX.org.