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Learning About Pregnancy and Smoking

How does smoking affect your pregnancy?

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.

Second-hand smoke also is a problem. Babies whose mothers breathe other people's tobacco smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have health problems.

Smoking during pregnancy increases the chance of:

  • Placenta problems. (The placenta is an organ that gives the baby oxygen and nutrients from the mother and gets rid of waste.)
  • Preterm birth. The baby is born too soon.
  • Miscarriage or stillbirth.
  • Birth defects, such as a cleft lip.
  • Death early in life, mainly because of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • A baby with a low birth weight.

Babies with low weight at birth can have more health problems than those born at normal weight. Some of the problems can be serious. A baby with a low birth weight may have a greater chance for problems in adulthood, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.

If you smoke, ask your doctor or midwife about ways to quit.

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

How does your being smoke-free help your baby?

When you're smoke-free, you give your baby the oxygen needed for a healthy start. And you protect your baby from the chemicals in tobacco smoke.

If you quit smoking before you become pregnant, your risk of having a baby with a low birth weight is the same as that of a woman who does not smoke. The same is true if you quit during the first 3 months of your pregnancy.

It's never too late to quit smoking. Women who quit later in pregnancy still reduce the risk of problems for their babies.

It's also important to stay smoke-free after your baby is born. Ask others to not smoke around your baby. Protecting your baby from tobacco smoke will reduce your baby's chance of having breathing problems.

How do you quit?

When you're ready to go smoke-free, use these tips to help you quit:

Get ready

  • If you're not pregnant, choose a quit date that works for you. If you're pregnant, it's best if you can stop smoking right away. If you're pregnant and can't stop yet, try to cut down as much as you can.
  • Talk to your doctor about a program to help you quit. Ask your doctor about nicotine replacement or other medicine.
  • 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 that person about not smoking around you.

Make a plan for quitting

  • Find ways to avoid places where others are smoking.
  • Think about when it might be hardest to not smoke, such as when you are restless or around others who smoke. Plan how you will handle your cravings during these times.
  • Change your routine. Avoid those things that make you reach for a cigarette.
  • Plan ways to cope with withdrawal from smoking. For example, take a walk after dinner instead of having a cigarette. Think of ways to cut down on stress in the first few weeks of quitting.
  • Keep trying to quit if you start smoking again. Most people who smoke will quit and restart many times before they stop for good. Each time you start smoking again, think about why you went back to smoking and why it's important to quit.
  • Remind yourself often about why you want to quit, and that it will get easier with time.

Get support

  • Ask loved ones or people who used to smoke for support and tips.
  • Get counselling. People who use telephone, group, or one-on-one counselling are much more likely to stop smoking.
  • Join a support group for people who smoke.
  • Look for a smoking cessation program. Call the AlbertaQuits Helpline at 1-866-710-7848 to learn about programs in Alberta.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

Enter V812 in the search box to learn more about "Learning About Pregnancy and Smoking".

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