Smoking causes serious birth defects

smoking4To dispel any uncertainty about the serious harm caused by smoking to babies and pregnant women, the first-ever comprehensive systematic review of all studies over the past 50 years has established clearly that maternal smoking causes a range of serious birth defects including heart defects, missing/deformed limbs, clubfoot, gastrointestinal disorders, and facial disorders (for example, of the eyes and cleft lip/palate).
Smoking during pregnancy is also a risk factor for premature birth, says Dr. Michael Katz, senior Vice President for Research and Global Programs of the March of Dimes. He says the March of Dimes urges all women planning a pregnancy or who are pregnant to quit smoking now to reduce their chance of having a baby born prematurely or with a serious birth defect. Babies who survive being born prematurely and at low birthweight are at risk of other serious health problems, Dr. Katz notes, including lifelong disabilities such as cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities and learning problems. Smoking also can make it harder to get pregnant, and increases the risk of stillbirth.

Around the world, about 250 million women use tobacco every day and this number is increasing rapidly, according to data presented at the 2009 14th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Mumbai.

The new study, “Maternal smoking in pregnancy and birth defects: a systematic review based on 173,687 malformed cases and 11.7 million controls,” by a team led by Allan Hackshaw, Cancer Research UK & UCL Cancer Trials Centre, University College London, was published online today in Human Reproduction Update from the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.

When women smoke during pregnancy, the unborn baby is exposed to dangerous chemicals like nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar, Dr. Katz says. These chemicals can deprive the baby of oxygen needed for healthy growth and development.

During pregnancy, smoking can cause problems for a woman’s own health, including: ectopic pregnancyvaginal bleeding; placental abruption, in which the placenta peels away, partially or almost completely, from the uterine wall before delivery; placenta previa, a low-lying placenta that covers part or all of the opening of the uterus. 

Smoking is also known to cause cancer, heart disease, stroke, gum disease and eye diseases that can lead to blindness.

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14 Responses to “Smoking causes serious birth defects”

  1. MelissaSH Says:

    This information is not new, but its important that the message is still heard. Thank you for posting updated statistics. It is almost unimaginable that anyone would still smoke while pregnant. The studies are in. Smoking is a leading cause of birth defects in babies. There is risk to you and your baby by smoking when you are pregnant. Why would anyone want to take that risk?

  2. Gina marie Says:

    All of these chemicals are in the air, soil, and food we all are exposed to every day. So are the causes smoking or the world in general? Where are the studies linking moms who sit in gridlock traffic everyday breathing in thousands of chemicals every minute? Where are the studies linking water from reclimation plants that contain chemicals that are harmful? I am not saying its good to smoke, I would like to see real studies containing environmental concerns with smoking pregnant women. Maybe done in places like Rugue Michigan? Or Love Canal New York? Where are these studies as well? The world is a dangerously polluted place. How can one say these things happen just because of smoking? Studies are invalid unless they involve all conditions.

  3. Melissa Says:

    In response to Gina Marie. In order to get a proper study you would need a control group of women who smoke during their pregnancies and compare them to those who don’t while keeping them in the same enviroment for almost a year as some chemicals linger for months in the body. All things would have to be equal.
    I don’t think you will ever get a group of women to be penned up for that time period.
    Over the years since the Surgeon General has impossed warning labels on each pack of tobacco products sold in the US, Doctors have been collecting data from patients. Enough data for the medical professionals to recognize a increase of birth defects in children born to smoking mothers.
    As you mentioned we are exposed to so many toxins in our air and water that we have little control over. Smoking is something that the mother has control over so if she truely cared about her baby’s health and future she’d quit , bottom line. Consider it the first sacrifice of many to come as a parent. If she isn’t ready to do this she isn’t ready to be a mother.

  4. sara lace smith Says:

    hello i have smoked for the past 3 months i heard its the most growth period .. what would be my chance on havin a gealthy baby .. after readjng this there is no way i am smoking again .. i would apreciate a response i am really worried

  5. Lindsay Says:

    Hi Sara – It’s great to hear that you are quitting!!! The sooner you quit smoking during pregnancy, the healthier you and your baby will be.

    Some women may mistakenly think that switching to “light” or “mild” cigarettes are a safer choice during pregnancy. Other pregnant women may want to cut down on smoking rather than quitting altogether. It’s true that the less you smoke, the better off baby will be. But quitting smoking is the best way to help ensure a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby.

    Tell your health care provider that you are quitting and ask him/her to help you stick with it. Let them know your concerns and ask any questions you may have about how your baby is doing. This is a wonderful gift you are giving to both your baby and yourself. Congratulations.

  6. Rebecca Lavele Says:

    I was actually quite heavy smoker before getting pregnant and during pregnancy couldn’t completely stop. I didn’t smoke much, let’s say 3 to 4 cigarettes per week, because it kept me more calm…I had to choose either being stressed or smoke and none is good for baby. My baby is amazing healthy boy and I am about to quit definitely!

  7. victoria Says:

    Help please!….
    My boyfriend an I just found out today the are 7 1/2 month old daughter was almost completely blind in her right eye. An I been trying to look on line an see if it was because I smoked about a pack an a half a day for nine months an still do. I’m blaming my self it kills me not to know. I hope there’s someone who is out there that can take there time to read this an give me a answer please.
    Please help PLEASE!
    Thank u.

  8. Sara Says:

    Hi Victoria. We are very sorry but unfortunately, there is no way for us to tell you whether or not your daughter’s loss of vision was due to smoking. You may want to talk to your daughter’s pediatrician about your concerns. He or she may be able to provide you with more specific information. We are very sorry that we cannot be of greater assistance at this time. If we can help in any other way, please email us at

  9. Charles Says:

    My wife smoked the whole time she was pregnant. Our son was about 2 years old when we noticed his pee smelled sour, we changed him regularly, so we were alarmed as to why?…. he started running a fever, took him to the Dr, after testing we found out his ureters, the tube that draws urine from the kidneys to the bladder was refluxing, urine from the bladder was flowing back up into his kidneys causing infection. Thanfully for medical technology the surgeon corrected this,, with Surgery! I sometimes wonder if this defect could have been avoided if my wife did not smoke…

  10. Sara Says:

    Hi Charles,
    We are so glad to hear that your son is doing well. There is no way for us to tell you whether or not his condition was due to smoking. You can talk to his doctors and they may be able to provide you with additional information. If we can help in any other way, please email us at

  11. Mari Says:

    I am 7 weeks pregnant and I found out at 4 weeks I was pregnant I used to smoke half a pack a day before I knew then I cut down to 5 cigs aday and now I’m down to 2 cigs a day. Is it too late to avoid birth defects would they already have started by now ? i thought if you stop before 12 weeks you are safe ???

  12. Missmarie Says:

    I’m wondering why no where am I finding information on the fact that A BIG risk of cigarette smoking while pregnant is the pestices in the tobacco. It is well known how dangerous pesticed are yet they are still being used and risking the health and lives of the users growers and consumers not to mention the environment for years and years to come?!?! It’s safe to say cigarette smoke is poisonous but let’s be real pesticides used in the tobacco industry and food industry alike are straight poison To ALL unborn and living!?!? It needs to STOP

  13. Hasse Karlgreen Says:

    Among women – Smoking effect badly the body of women when she is pregnant. When you do smoking many harmful chemicals go into the body of unborn child. So it is quite dangerous for both during pregnancy.

  14. Kathy Says:

    My mother and Dad smoked during all four of her pregnancies. My younger sister was born with a cleft lip. I was born with heart rhythm issues requiring surgery, missing right pectoral muscle, scoliosis an extra “rib” in my neck which fused to another disc causing chronic pain and breast cancer. ( Im the only one on both sides of my family) My brother had a stroke three years ago that had nothing to do with a blockage. He leads a healthy lifestyle so nothing could have prepared him for that.