Smoking, pregnancy and breastfeeding

Smoking while pregnant is a major cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or cot death. 

While you are pregnant, every puff you take on a cigarette has an immediate effect on your unborn baby.

Smoking increases all of the following: 

  • the risk of a miscarriage
  • the risk of complications during the birth
  • the likelihood of having a low-weight baby who is more vulnerable to infection and other health problems
  • the chances of the baby dying at, or shortly after, the birth.

Smoking during pregnancy

Carbon monoxide replaces some of the oxygen in your blood, reducing the amount of oxygen your baby receives through the umbilical cord.

The nicotine increases your heart rate and your baby's heart rate. To prepare for breathing after birth, your unborn baby exercises its chest muscles. Nicotine reduces these movements. 

It also causes your blood vessels to narrow, reducing the flow of blood through the umbilical cord. This makes it harder for your baby to get the oxygen and nourishment it needs.

The poisons in cigarette smoke that pass into your bloodstream are also passed to your baby. 

Smoking and breastfeeding

The poisons you breathe in through cigarettes are passed to your baby through breast milk. 

Passive smoking

If you or your partner or other household members smoke around the baby, they are smoking too. 

They breathe the same dangerous chemicals. This is called passive smoking.

Children have smaller, more delicate lungs than adults and are more affected by tobacco smoke.

Babies and children who are exposed to passive smoking are at a higher risk of developing serious illnesses, such as:

  • cot death
  • chest illnesses such as croup, bronchitis and pneumonia
  • poorer lung function
  • asthma
  • glue ear, which is the most common cause of hearing loss in children.

The best way to protect your children from passive smoking is to have a total smoking ban inside your home.

Quit smoking

For free information, advice and support to stop smoking call the Quitline 24 hours a day on 13 78 48. 

You can also download the free app 'Quit for you - Quit for two', which provides support to quit smoking if you are pregnant or planning to be.

Last updated: 27 June 2017