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Quitting Smoking and Avoiding Smoke During Pregnancy

Topic Overview

When you're pregnant, everything you put in your body can affect your baby. If you smoke, your baby is exposed to chemicals such as nicotine and carbon monoxide.

If you're a smoker and get pregnant, now is the time to quit. If you're not a smoker, avoid secondhand smoke. If you smoke and aren't pregnant but are thinking about having a baby, make a plan to quit before you try to get pregnant.

If you quit smoking before you become pregnant (or during the first 3 months of your pregnancy), your risk of having a baby with low birth weight is the same as that of a woman who does not smoke. Women who quit later in their pregnancy still reduce the risk of problems for their babies.

It's also important to not go back to smoking after the baby is born and to ask others not to smoke in your home. This will reduce your baby's risk of having breathing problems.

Many programs are available to help pregnant women quit smoking. Ask your doctor or nurse-midwife for information on quitting smoking.

How does smoking affect your pregnancy?

Smoking during pregnancy may increase the risk of:

If your baby or child is exposed to smoke after birth, he or she will be more prone to illness and breathing problems.

What can you do to stop smoking?

Get ready.
  • If you're not pregnant yet, choose a quit date that works for you. If you are pregnant, stop smoking right away. If you can't stop yet, try to cut down as much as you can. Talk to your doctor about a program that can help you stop smoking.
  • Get rid of your cigarettes, ashtrays, and lighters. Clean your house and clothes to get rid of the smoke smell.
  • If you live with someone who smokes, discuss quitting together. If this is not an option, talk to the person(s) about not smoking around you. When you can, avoid places where others are smoking.
Make a plan for quitting.
  • Decide what times are the hardest for you, such as when you are restless or around others who smoke. Plan how you will handle your cravings during these times. For information on how to deal with cravings, see Quick Tips: What to Do When You Crave Nicotine.
  • Change your routine. Avoid those things that make you reach for a cigarette.
  • Find ways to cope. For example, take a walk after dinner instead of having a cigarette.
  • Find ways to cut down on stress in the first few weeks of quitting.
  • Talk to your doctor about nicotine replacement or medicines. If you are already pregnant, your doctor will recommend that you try other ways to stop smoking before using nicotine replacement or medicines. Most medicines that help you quit are not safe during pregnancy.
Get support.
  • Ask loved ones or people who used to smoke for support and tips.
  • Get counseling. People who use telephone, group, or one-on-one counseling are much more likely to stop smoking.
  • Join a support group for people who smoke.
  • Find an Internet chat room for 24-hour support.

Where can you find information and support?

If you're ready to quit smoking, congratulations. You are taking an important step for your health and for your baby's health. You can use these websites to find more information about quitting smoking:

  • www.marchofdimes.com/pnhec/159_155.asp
  • www.smokefree.gov

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Last Revised July 23, 2012

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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