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Smoking and pregnancy

4-minute read

If you stop smoking while pregnant, it will help give your baby the best start in life and will make you healthier.

It's never too late to stop smoking as the health benefits of quitting begin within hours of your last smoke. It’s best to quit early on in pregnancy, but quitting at any time gives your baby a better chance of a healthy start in life.

It's not just mothers-to-be, but their partners who should quit smoking. Passive (secondhand) smoking can also harm mother and baby, so a smoke-free household means a healthier family. It can be challenging, but with some support you can reach your goals.

Smoking and fertility

For both women and men, quitting smoking increases your fertility.

Women who smoke can have:

  • difficulty in conceiving
  • early onset of menopause
  • higher risk of cervical and vulvar cancer

Men who smoke may have:

  • trouble getting and maintaining an erection
  • lower sperm count
  • damage to DNA in sperm causing health problems in your baby

How smoking affects your baby

Smoking during pregnancy exposes your baby to harmful chemicals. Every time you smoke, the baby effectively smokes too, as harmful nicotine and other chemicals pass through the placenta and into the fetus. Smoking also reduces blood flow for your baby.

Smoking while pregnant can result in a far higher risk of:

After your baby is born, there are still health and developmental risks if you or other household members smoke. These include:

Smoking and breastfeeding

When you smoke, nicotine and other harmful chemicals are passed on to your baby through breast milk. Even if you continue smoking, breastfeeding is still best for your baby.

Passive smoking

Other people's smoke can harm both mother and baby. If it's not possible for all family members to quit, at least commit to a smoke-free household. People who smoke should do so outside.

In all states and territories, it's illegal to smoke in a vehicle while a child is present. There are also smoking bans in public spaces.

Support to give up smoking

Totally quitting smoking is the best goal, but you might find it easier to cut down on your smoking to begin with.

There are many different quitting methods and you might need to try a few. Every attempt to give up cigarettes is a step towards becoming an ex-smoker. Talking to a health practitioner is a good starting point, as is contacting Quitline.

Methods that work include:

  • going cold turkey - simply stopping works for many people
  • using Quitline resources
  • mobile apps, such as Quit for you - Quit for two
  • support from family and friends
  • prescription medication (not recommended for pregnant women)
  • nicotine replacement therapies

Medications that help to manage withdrawal symptoms – such as Champix (varenicline) or Zyban (bupropion) – are not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) can help. They are readily available from pharmacies and some supermarkets, and come in two categories:

  • steady response products, such as nicotine patches
  • quick response products, such as chewing gum, lozenges, tablets and inhalers

Using NRT products is safer than smoking, but it is important to discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor or pharmacist and follow their advice. The better NRT options for pregnant women are lozenges, mouth spray, gum or Inhalator, which usually provide a lower daily dose of nicotine than the patch. However, if you have nausea or sickness, you may prefer the patch. You can use the daytime patch to help you quit, and you must remove it before going to bed. Do not use the 24-hour nicotine patch.

While some smokers have found vaping or e-cigarettes to be useful aids in giving up tobacco and tar, the long-term health effects are still unknown. Due to their ingredients, even non-nicotine e-cigarettes may be harmful to your baby. Vaping or using e-cigarettes are not recommended.

It might take you a few goes to quit. It does for most people. But it's worth it to keep trying.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: May 2020

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Need more information?

Smoking, pregnancy and breastfeeding | NT.GOV.AU

Smoking during pregnancy, passive smoking and why you should quit smoking.

Read more on NT Health website

Smoking and pregnancy: in pictures | Raising Children Network

Smoking makes it harder to get pregnant and harms your baby if you’re pregnant. For help to quit smoking, call Quitline on 137 848, or speak to your GP.

Read more on website

Smoking and tobacco and pregnancy | Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care

If you’re pregnant, the safest option is to not smoke at all. The chemicals in tobacco smoke affect an unborn baby's development and may have lifelong effects. Find out what the risks are and who you can contact for help and support.

Read more on Department of Health and Aged Care website

Effects of caffeine, alcohol and smoking on reproductive outcomes

Some lifestyle behaviours are known to affect fertility, pregnancy health and the health of the baby at birth and in adulthood. Here is what you need to know about how caffeine, alcohol and smoking affect fertility and reproductive outcomes.

Read more on Your Fertility website

Pregnant women, children and bushfire smoke

Bushfire smoke is a serious health hazard, especially for pregnant women and children. Find out here how to limit your own and your family's exposure.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Passive smoking and your health

Information on passive smoking and your health.

Read more on WA Health website

Passive smoking | Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

What is passive smoking? Passive smoking is breathing in smoke from other people’s cigarettes, cigars or pipes

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Smoking triggers my asthma and allergies - National Asthma Council Australia

Smoking and asthma are a bad match. Smoking yourself or breathing in other people's smoke: damages your

Read more on National Asthma Council Australia website

Smoking, alcohol, drugs, pregnancy & men | Raising Children Network

If smoking, drinking alcohol or taking drugs is part of your lifestyle, your partner’s pregnancy might be the time to quit. Get information for dads-to-be.

Read more on website

About passive smoking | Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care

Passive smoking is when you breathe in the smoke from other people’s cigarettes, cigars or pipes. It is a serious health threat — being exposed to tobacco smoke for just a moment can cause harm. Unborn babies, children and people with breathing problems are most at risk.

Read more on Department of Health and Aged Care website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

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The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

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