Harmful Effects of Smoking during Pregnancy

Smoking and pregnancy do not go hand in hand. A woman who smokes and was able to get pregnant without any artificial assistance is quite lucky because, normally, it is hard for a woman who smokes to get pregnant.

We understand that some habits are difficult to give up, but what of when it’s going to affect life negatively…your baby’s life? It is extremely dangerous to smoke with a fetus in your womb looking up to you for a healthy supply of nutrients and other nourishing values. Once you have accepted the responsibility of your pregnancy, then you should be more accountable by quitting smoking.

Risks of smoking during pregnancy

Smoking while pregnant does not only cause pregnancy complications, but it also increases child mortality. There are a lot of negative things smoking can cause to your pregnancy:

  • Restricts oxygen and nutrient supply to the fetus

The contents of a cigarette stick include over 4000 harmful chemicals which are passed through your bloodstream where your baby gets its supply of nutrients and oxygen2,3. Now out of these 4000 chemicals, there are two notorious and dangerous substances known as carbon monoxide and nicotine. The presence of these two substances along with other substances could increase the risk of pregnancy complications.

Allowing the two of them to find its way to your womb through smoking or second-hand smoking is quite dangerous. Why? Nicotine could restrict the baby from having its share of oxygen supply by narrowing the blood vessels and also makes it difficult for the baby to get his or her share of nutrients.4 It’s more like you’re suffocating the baby in your womb.

The carbon monoxide stands in the place where the red blood cells are trying to carry oxygen and make them pick it instead. So now the blood vessels are now covered with molecules of carbon monoxide. The toxins from the harmful substances of cigarettes or other mediums of smoking get into the placenta where the baby feeds, and this makes it easy for the fetus to absorb the deadly substances which will lead to a long-term adverse effect in the later life of the baby. The nicotine could cause damage to the brains and lungs of your unborn baby.

  • Preterm birth

Smoking during pregnancy can result in preterm birth. Preterm birth is when your baby is born weeks before the due date. Having a preterm birth not only results in low birth weight of the infant, but it also leads to health risks for the newborn baby such as mental disability, mortality, slow cognitive development, inability to see or hear.

  • The weight of the baby

Smoking cuts down about a pound or more from your baby’s weight. Your baby is then born small which can have a negative consequence on the health of the baby. The baby is likely to have cerebral palsy and a delay in cognitive development. In some cases, it might lead to a delay in discharging mother and child from the hospital because the baby is likely to look sickly and they may need to monitor it. At other times, it may lead to the death of the baby.

  • Placenta Abruption

Another harmful effect is that it can cause problems to the placenta which is where the fetus gets everything it needs during its stay in the womb. One of the placenta problems is the separation of the placenta from the womb when it is not time to do so. It could cause complications such as bleeding.

  • Birth Defects

Giving birth to a small-sized baby can cause most of the organs to be undeveloped such as the lungs. This baby is likely to experience breathing difficulty as it grows. The baby may be required to use respiration to help him breathe immediately after delivery because the lungs cannot work well yet; this is what nicotine, carbon monoxide, and tar can cause the life of a young one. This baby may develop asthma later in life or worse still, may not even be able to live long as it is more at risk of SIDS- sudden infant death syndrome.5

The baby may also be at risk of having a heart defect at birth, especially if the mother had smoked during the first trimester of pregnancy. Congenital disabilities include congenital heart defect and atrial septal defect.

  • Cognitive issues

Smoking during pregnancy will make you give birth to babies with low IQ and learning disorders.6 Most children who were born by a mother who smokes find it hard to respond to sound and as a result of this, they are less likely to learn languages as fast as normal children do. They do not perform well in school which might lead them to drop out of school. They get a lower score in math, spelling, and language. And this is some of the effects that are likely not to go away for a lifetime.

  • Bandwagon Effect

According to research, children of women who smoked during pregnancy are likely to smoke when they get older.

Effects of quitting smoking at different trimester


If you can quit smoking in the first trimester, it would have a positive impact on your health and the health of the fetus because this is the time most development anddefects takes place. So it will be of great benefit if you can quit at this time, if not before conceiving. When you do so, your baby has the chance of coming out as healthy as the babies of women who don’t smoke.


Quitting smoking during the second trimester will not have much positive impact on the fetus, but the dangers is a bit lessened. Your baby can start growing well immediately after you give up smoking at this time.

If you stop smoking three weeks before your due date, your baby can still add some weight, but not as much as the woman who gave it up during the second trimester and far different from the one that called it quits during the first trimester.

From the middle of the second trimester till the third trimester, the weight of the fetus is meant to increase significantly as most parts of the body form at this stage. The fetus in a smoker’s

stomach is less likely to grow because smoking replaces the nutrients pregnant women are meant to have.

Babies who were exposed to smoking through their mothers are more likely to have colic which can frustrate for the mother.

Children born of smoking mothers are likely to end up poor later in life because they have a low IQ and as such will not be able to learn skills that will help them progress. It is quite sad that despite knowing about the harmful effects of smoking, women still choose to ignore and continue smoking. It might be hard to quit, and sometimes, the stress and depression that comes with pregnancy might encourage a stick or two. If you are not able to stop it all by yourself, you can seek help from different care agencies. You can also ask family and friends to help you out. When surrounded by love and care, you would be able to pull through till delivery and after that.


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