When you become pregnant, what you eat, drink and breathe can affect your baby. This includes vaping and smoking during pregnancy.
Cigarettes and cigars are made from tobacco leaves. Smoke from tobacco contains more than 7,000 chemicals. At least 250 of these are harmful to smokers and nonsmokers. Tobacco contains a drug called nicotine. Nicotine is what makes you become addicted to smoking. Most e-cigarettes also contain nicotine.
Secondhand smoke is smoke you breathe in from someone else’s cigarette, cigar, pipe or other tobacco product. Secondhand smoke is dangerous for you and your baby. Being around secondhand smoke during pregnancy can cause your baby to be born with low birthweight or birth defects. Breathing even a little tobacco smoke can be harmful.
How can smoking affect your baby?
When you smoke during pregnancy, chemicals like nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar pass through the placenta and umbilical cord to your baby. These chemicals are harmful to your baby. They can lessen the amount of oxygen that your baby gets. This can slow your baby’s growth before birth and can damage your baby’s lungs and brain.
If you smoke during pregnancy, your baby is more likely to:
- Be born prematurely, before 37 weeks of pregnancy
- Have birth defects, including birth defects in a baby’s mouth called cleft lip or cleft palate.
- Have low birthweight. This means your baby is born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces.
- Die before birth from miscarriage or stillbirth. Miscarriage is when a baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Stillbirth is when a baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
- Die of sudden infant death syndrome (also called SIDS). SIDS is the unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year old. SIDS usually happens when a baby is sleeping. It’s sometimes called crib death because the baby often dies in his crib.
- Have lung or brain damage. Smoking can affect your baby’s developing lungs and brain. The damage can last through childhood and into the teen years.
Smoking also doubles your risk of abnormal bleeding during pregnancy and delivery. This can put both you and your baby in danger.
Is vaping safer than smoking while pregnant?
No, using electronic cigarettes (vaping) during pregnancy isn’t safe. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which permanently damages a baby’s developing brain and many other organs. E-cigarettes also contain other chemicals and flavorings that can harm your baby.
Tips for quitting
It’s best to quit smoking before you get pregnant. If you’re pregnant and still smoking, you may feel ashamed and alone. But quitting can still help protect you and your baby from health problems.
You may think that light or mild cigarettes are safer choices during pregnancy. This is not true. Or you may want to cut down rather than quit smoking altogether. It’s true that the less you smoke, the better for your baby. But quitting is best.
Tips to help you quit include:
- Write down your reasons for quitting. Look at the list when you are tempted to smoke.
- Choose a “quit day.” On that day, throw away all your cigarettes or cigars, lighters and ashtrays.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Keep your hands busy using a small stress ball or doing some needlework.
- Try going for a walk or doing chores to keep your mind off cravings.
- Snack on some raw veggies or chew sugarless gum to ease the need to have something in your mouth.
- Stay away from places, activities or people that make you feel like smoking.
- Ask your partner or a friend to help you quit.
- Ask your employer what services are covered by health insurance.
- Look for programs in your community or where you work that can help you stop smoking. These are called smoking cessation programs.
- Ask your health care provider about quitting aids such as patches, gum, nasal spray and medications. Don’t start using these without your health care provider’s okay, especially if you’re pregnant.
- Use tools like Smokefree.gov’s free text message program for pregnant women who are trying to quit or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for advice from a quit smoking counselor.
It is important to quit smoking for good. You may think it is safe to start smoking again after your baby is born, but secondhand tobacco smoke can harm your baby.
If you have trouble quitting, keep trying! You’re doing what’s best for you and your baby.