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Smoking and pregnancy

Smoking whilst you are pregnant and being exposed to secondhand smoke, is extremely harmful and can cause significant problems leading to a poor outcome in your pregnancy – It really isn’t a risk worth taking.


What causes the harm?

There are over 4,000 chemicals and toxic gases released from smoking tobacco, all of which pass through to your baby.  To name a few, these include arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, and formaldehyde.  The most harmful toxic gas produced from smoking is carbon monoxide which significantly reduces the amount of oxygen transported in your baby’s blood.  Every time you smoke, carbon monoxide passes across your placenta and enters your baby’s blood, reducing the oxygen vital for your baby’s growth and development, causing your baby’s tiny heart to work harder.  The thousands of toxins also damage the delicate tissues that make up your placenta, increasing the risk of your baby being born prematurely and becoming distressed during labour.


A positive consequence of quitting is that carbon monoxide clears from your system in less than 24 hours, meaning your baby gets the right amount of oxygen to grow and develop the minute you stop smoking.


How does smoking tobacco affect your pregnancy?


The evidence is conclusive around smoking in pregnancy and the serious complications that can occur leading to poor outcomes, such as ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, bleeding, premature birth, poor growth, and development of your baby and devastatingly can result in your baby being born smaller and weaker or worse still a stillbirth.  Sadly, it doesn’t end there – smoking can affect your baby for the rest of their life, as they have an increased risk being born with congenital abnormalities, particularly heart defects and cleft lip and palate.  They have an increased risk of developing serious breathing difficulties such as asthma, chest infections and other serious infections such as meningitis.  Toxins released from smoking can damage your unborn baby’s brain, increasing their risk in childhood of developing hyperactive and disruptive behaviour.  Sadly, smoking during pregnancy and exposure to secondhand smoke significantly increases the risk of sudden infant death (also known as cot death).


The best time to quit is before you become pregnant, and stopping smoking early in pregnancy almost completely prevents damage to your baby, so the earlier you quit the better. However, it is never too late to quit smoking anytime during pregnancy.


What role does your midwife play in supporting you to stop smoking?


A simple quick breath test for carbon monoxide is part of routine antenatal care, which your midwife will do.  Whether you smoke or not, you will be tested at first contact, usually your booking appointment, and again around 36 weeks of pregnancy.  If you have quit in pregnancy or currently smoke this will be carried out at every antenatal check.  Identifying high risk factors such as smoking is crucial to ensure you are on the correct pathway of care and that we manage your pregnancy appropriately.  If you are identified as a smoker or recently quit, your midwife will routinely refer you to our healthy pregnancy support service giving you the opportunity to discuss further and allow us to help you quit and stay quit throughout pregnancy.


What help is available for pregnant smokers in Dudley?

For some people stopping smoking can be difficult, but we are here to make it as easy as possible, because it is so important you do quit.  In Dudley we have a specialist Healthy Pregnancy Support Service.  They are a friendly, non-judgmental support service, providing you with direct access to FREE nicotine replacement therapy, such as patches and gum, and if you choose to vape, they will support you to maintain a smokefree pregnancy.  They provide face to face support, in your home, local family hubs, or antenatal clinics and will help you every step of the way throughout pregnancy and beyond.


If you smoke and are thinking of starting a pregnancy, or you recently miscarried and are worried about future pregnancy’s, there is help for you and your partner, Your Health Dudley can support you to quit before you start your pregnancy journey.

For further information visit the NHS Website