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Smoking in pregnancy

Within this information, we may use the terms "woman" and "women". However, we recognise that not only people who identify as women may want to access this content. Your care should be personalised, inclusive and sensitive to your needs, whatever your gender identity.

Protecting your baby from tobacco smoke is one of the best things you can do to give your child a healthy start in life. It can be difficult to stop smoking, but it's never too late to quit and we're here to support you.

Smoking when you're pregnant harms your unborn baby.

  • A cigarette contains more than 4,000 chemicals, which can be harmful
  • The carbon monoxide in tobacco can restrict the essential oxygen supply to your baby, so their heart needs to beat harder every time you smoke

Health effects of smoking and secondhand smoke

  • Women who smoke have more difficulty becoming pregnant and have a higher risk of never becoming pregnant.

  • Smoking during pregnancy can cause tissue damage in the unborn baby, particularly in the lung and brain, and some studies suggests a link between maternal smoking and cleft lip.

  • Studies also suggest a relationship between tobacco and miscarriage.

  • Mothers who smoke are more likely to have their babies early. Pre-term delivery (earlier than 37 weeks) is a leading cause of death, disability, and disease among newborns.

  • One in every five babies born to mothers who smoke during pregnancy has low birth weight. Babies born too small are more likely to have health problems.

  • Mothers who are exposed to secondhand smoke while pregnant are more likely to have lower birth weight babies.

  • Babies whose mothers smoke during pregnancy are around three times more likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

  • Babies who are exposed to secondhand smoke after birth are also more likely to die from SIDS.

  • Babies whose mothers smoke during pregnancy and babies exposed to secondhand smoke after birth have weaker lungs than other babies.

Help and support

University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) runs smoking cessation clinics to help and support you on your journey to stopping smoking. The good news is that by quitting, the benefits to you and your baby begin almost immediately, with carbon monoxide and chemicals clearing from the body and oxygen levels returning to normal.

Please speak to your midwife if you would like to know more.

There is more free support available from the NHS, including a National Smokefree Helpline.

You are four times more likely to quit successfully by taking advantage of free NHS support.

Last reviewed: 07 March 2023