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Quit, Do Not Wait: Why Is Smoking Dangerous During Pregnancy

23.09.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

“I’m on the 12th week of pregnancy. Before that, I was smoking for 10 years (at least one pack a day). As soon as I learned that my husband and I will have a long-awaited child, I quitted smoking. I really didn’t want any complications, because we have made a long way to it (I wasn’t able to get pregnant for 3 years).

But my cheerful wish of quitting smoking was enough for only 4 days, during which I almost went mad. I was nervous, cried and made hysterics out of nothing. I couldn’t stand such stress, I had one cigarette. And I suffered again. For a couple of weeks I was smoking half pack a day. I was hiding from my husband and relatives like a teenager, because everyone around me was sure that I quitted smoking.

After each cigarette, I cry, swear to myself and to my child that I will never again touch this filth, but after a couple of hours I smoke again. I am very afraid for my baby, I am afraid to harm his health. But I cannot fight the addiction.

My friend assures me that during pregnancy it is possible to smoke, that, on the contrary, it is not possible to quit suddenly – it is sort of a great stress for mother and child. But it is hard to believe – lots of children are born with chronic diseases. I don’t want to blame myself later on. I understand that I urgently need to quit smoking, but I cannot. The habit is stronger than me”.

– Alena, 28

In Russia, about 30% of women smoke. And half of them do not give up the addiction even during pregnancy. [1] Someone manages to master up and by the end of the first trimester to put cigarettes away.  But there are also those who are unable to quit – despite the fact that a woman knows perfectly well about the negative health impact of tobacco smoke, she continues to smoke until the birth of a baby and after. We consider an important question in the article: what harm does nicotine bring to a baby and mother. And the most important thing is how to quit smoking during pregnancy?


Harm of smoking during pregnancy

smoking while pregnant

Everything that a woman does and experiences during pregnancy is directly affecting the health of a baby. Mother’s and baby’s body is a single whole. When a mother makes another whiff, a portion of nicotine is also received by a child in her womb. A baby seems to be in a smoke veil consisting of a huge amount of carcinogenic substances. All of them penetrate through the placenta.

Many women always refer to acquaintances unable to find the strength to fight the pernicious habit – “my friend was smoking all her pregnancy, and she had a healthy baby”. Yes, in the first months of life, the physical condition of a baby will be excellent. But there is a huge risk that all the consequences of smoking mothers will manifest themselves after a few years – at the stage of active physical and mental development of a child.

Why do pregnant women continue to smoke, fully understanding how dangerous nicotine smoke is? The matter is not even in pleasure, which a whiff gives, but in the formed physical and psychological dependence. When one cannot satisfy his/her desire, he/she feels unhappy. As a result, another cigarette is jumping to the hands to relieve emotional tension.

Smoking is a learned behavior. But working hard yourself, you can abandon the bad habit, replacing it with a healthy one.

We will help you to give up smoking!

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Smoking and pregnancy planning

The majority of smoking women talk like this: “When I am pregnant, then I will quit, but now…” It is a wrong approach to plan for the future of your child!

Smoking woman significantly reduces the impregnation ability. Specialists explain this by the fact that toxic substances negatively affect the reproductive functions of a future mother – there is a difficulty in the movement of eggs in uterine tubes and an inhibition of the actions of sexual hormones. According to studies, the probability of pregnancy in a smoking woman is 33% lower than in non-smoking (in the absence of serious internal diseases in both groups). [2]

Planning conception means a couple’s willingness to become parents. Both man and woman should thus realize the importance of creating healthy conditions for the future of the baby in the intrauterine development. And, of course, bad habits are not positive factors.

According to doctors, it is necessary to quit tobacco smoking at least 3 months before the planned conception. During this time, a woman’s body will get rid of a significant part of the harmful substances accumulated from prolonged inhalation of carcinogens. In addition, the strong emotional stress caused by giving up cigarettes will not be necessary for the first trimester of pregnancy, when for a future mother it is so important to observe complete calmness. And if one attempt to give up the harmful habit is not successful, there will be time to try again. [3]

Negative effects of smoking at all stages of pregnancy

psychological help

Smoking is dangerous at every stage of fetal intrauterine development. Let’s look through the details how smoking affects pregnancy.

1. Smoking in the first trimester (from conception to 13 weeks)

Until the 14th week there is an active building of vital systems of a baby’s body. That is why smoking during pregnancy in early periods can cause irreparable harm to a child. All internal organs are formed as well as the umbilical rope, through which nutrients are supplied to the fetus and its products of vital activity are removed. A baby is moving already in the 3rd month of pregnancy, which is not felt by a mother because of the small weight (about 30 g) and size (about 9 cm) of the fetus. Carcinogens entering a mother’s body can cause physical and psychological abnormalities in the development of a baby.

Often smoking during pregnancy in early periods becomes the cause of miscarriage – blood circulation in the emerging placenta is violated, and this is the risk of its detachment. A healthy lifestyle is especially important for those who have had complications during pregnancy in the past. [3]

2.Smoking in the second trimester (from the 14th to the 27th week)

nicotine addiction
Mature doctor making an ultrasound examination to pregnant woman

The second trimester of pregnancy is the period of active intrauterine growth of a baby. The brain and other organs continue to form, the immune system is gaining strength, the fat layer increases. A baby begins to move more actively – mother already feels this.

A baby “breathes” through the placenta, which is already completely formed. When pregnant woman smokes (especially a whole pack of cigarettes), a baby receives much less oxygen than required during normal pregnancy. This is the risk of acute or chronic fetal hypoxia (oxygen starvation). Carcinogenic substances disturb the natural growth and development of a baby. There is a serious threat of premature birth or fetal death in the womb. [3]

3. Smoking in the third trimester (from the 28th week before birth)

Vital organs of a baby such as heart, brain, liver, kidneys continue to develop in the last trimester. There is an active accumulation of calcium, iron, protein and antibodies in a baby’s body. The way a future mother lives, will determine the health of a baby after birth – the presence or absence of chronic diseases.

Smoking in pregnancy after 27 weeks is a serious risk for both a baby and a woman. A cigarette that has been smoked causes oxygen starvation of the fetus, which brings severe damage to it. There is some data that fetus doesn’t gain weight actively if mother could not give up her harmful habit. Nicotine at this stage provokes the state of hypotrophy in a baby – a mismatch of the physical development of a baby’s organs during pregnancy.

A baby will soon be born. But smoking can bring this moment closer, which is undesirable. In some cases, the harmful habit becomes the cause of premature birth due to thinning and detachment of the placenta. This is a potential violation of a baby’s future growth and development.

According to scientists, the rate of premature birth among smoking pregnant women was 22%. For comparison: among non-smoking mothers, there are much less cases of early childbirth – 4.5%. [1]

What is the effect of smoking in the third trimester on the health of a future mother? Women with the harmful habit have gestosis more often than non-smokers. This is a complication of normal pregnancy, which can manifest itself by edema, increased pressure, washout of protein from the body and convulsions. Gestosis can affect the development of a child, cause complications in childbirth, as well as lead to the death of a woman in especially severe cases.  [3]

How smoking affects fetus

ways to quit smoking
Close-up of an pregnant woman holding ultrasound photograph of a baby in front of the swollen tummy.

“I’m 26. I became pregnant when I was 20. Before that I was smoking for 4 years. I could not give up nicotine addiction even when I learned about my pregnancy. I continued to smoke, not limiting the number of cigarettes. I didn’t care at all whether a pregnant woman can smoke or not, whether it is dangerous for a child. I did not listen to the persuasion of my husband and parents. The thing was – I did care about the health of my child. I just knew I couldn’t quit – I tried many times before my pregnancy, but everything was unsuccessful.

The pregnancy was going safely, this gave me hope – I thought that it was not necessary to quit smoking if everything was normal with the baby. Only then I understood how badly I was wrong. Childbirth began earlier than planned. But it was not critical, as it was already the 36th week. My girl, Tanechka, was born. Everything was good. But a couple of hours after her birth, my baby was in intensive care. She could not breathe herself, doctors had to connect her to life support equipment. My Tanechka tried to breathe, but oxygen refused to pass into her lungs. A chronic pathology was caused by smoking throughout pregnancy. Only a few months later the daughter’s condition normalized. Now Tanechka is 5, her health is normal, except for asthma.

I remember with horror the time spent in front of the unit of intensive care. I still feel a terrible guilt before my daughter. I am guilty that my Tanechka has a health problem”.

– Anna, 25

Many inveterate smokers explain unwillingness to quit smoking after pregnancy by the presence of natural protection in a baby. Indeed, the placenta acts as a kind of filter that prevents toxins and pathogenic microorganisms from getting to fetus. But, unfortunately, about a hundred potentially dangerous tobacco combustion products pass freely through the placental barrier, harming a baby.

What  risks for the development of the fetus does smoking bring?

  1. Congenital malformations

Smoking can cause birth defects in a baby. Toxins entering a baby’s body through the placenta lead to the development of chronic diseases of the heart and lungs, defects of the nasopharynx, the appearance of strabismus, the development of a hazy lip. [4]

  1. Physical development

A smoking woman during pregnancy risks having a baby with less weight and height than would be if she did not smoke. This can be explained by the fact that toxins disrupt blood circulation in the placenta, thereby slowing the intake of nutrients to the fetus. So a baby receives less vitamins and nutrients, which are not enough for normal development.

After birth, a baby can catch up the lack of body weight and height. But in some cases, children of smoking mothers do not catch up with their peers in physical development. They are more often sick because of weak immunity, get tired faster. [4]

  1. Mental development of a child

Children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy may be more or less likely to lag in mental development from their peers as they get older. This is manifested in delay of speech, increased excitability and anxiety, inability to concentrate, inability to express their thoughts according to age.

Congenital anomalies of mental development are manifested in the first 6 years of a child’s life. This is a very important period of development. A child may not be able to cope with the preparation for school in the future, experience difficulties in studying. [4]

  1. Death of a baby

Nicotine intoxication leads to pathological changes in the fetus. Smoking women often have complications in childbirth, the risk of death of a baby during birth increases at times or in the first months after birth. Preterm children are first of all in the group of risk. It is not always possible to normalize a baby’s condition.

A serious danger  is smoking of a mother in the first days of lactation. Cases of nicotine poisoning of newborns have been described. In babies, a change in the shade of skin, bradycardia, apnea, vomiting after feeding, intestinal paresis were observed. [1]

How to quit smoking in pregnancy: 8 useful recommendations

quit smoking

“Before pregnancy I was smoking for 4 years (less than a pack a day). When I saw 2 stripes on the test, I decided to quit my harmful habit. But really I couldn’t give up abruptly – up to 8 weeks of pregnancy I smoked 2-3 cigarettes a day. It seemed to me that this was a good beginning – I would stop smoking very soon. 

Perhaps my smooth quit would have lasted a long time. But soon I went to my first planned ultrasound. I saw a tiny point – my baby on the screen. The doctor gave me to listen to the heartbeat. It was wonderful that the whole world turned over – finally I have become a mother, I waited so long for it. And I have lost all the desire to smoke. I decided to quit immediately. I went out and threw a pack of cigarettes into the trash bin.

From that day I really have not been smoking, soon I will give a birth. Yes, I still sometimes want to take a cigarette in my hands, but I am firm in order to have a healthy baby. I heard how harmful nicotine affects the development of children”.

– Irina, 25

Ideally, you should quit smoking at the planning stage of your child. But even if this is an unplanned pregnancy, you should quit the harmful habit as soon as possible.

Researchers at the University of Auckland have checked whether there is a period during which a woman can quit smoking with minimal risk to herself and her baby. 2,500 future mothers took part in the study, one third of whom quitted smoking before the 15th week of pregnancy. Experts concluded that women who had given up their addiction by the end of the first trimester could prevent serious complications in the development of the fetus. They request all pregnant women to give up smoking before 15 weeks pass, since then the threats related to the health of a baby increase multiple times. The authors of the study noted another interesting fact.

Pregnant women who quitted smoking after getting pregnant had a level of stress, which was no higher than in those who continued to smoke or did not smoke before. So it is time to stop believing in the myth that giving up nicotine will cause so much psychological stress that it will certainly harm a baby. Smoking is much more dangerous than quitting syndrome!

In addition, the questionnaire revealed that women who smoked up to 5-10 cigarettes a day were more likely to quit in the first weeks of pregnancy than those who smoked one pack a day. [1]

Can pregnant women use various tablets, plasters, or sprays that help smokers get rid of nicotine addiction? Doctors are unanimous: drugs are not allowed in the fight against the harmful habit of future mothers. The fact is that such things cause no less harm to the health of a woman and a baby than smoking directly, because they can create an effect of nicotine overdose, which is extremely dangerous. All substitutes of cigarettes in their instructions have a warning about their inability to be taken in the period of pregnancy and lactation.

Do not believe the myth that you should not suddenly quit smoking during pregnancy. Start the fight against nicotine addiction once you learned that soon there will be a replenishment in the family. Gradual reduction of smoked cigarettes can stretch to the very birth. You won’t notice how the time to go to hospital will fly, but you haven’t yet quitted the bad habit.

What recommendations will help pregnant women quit smoking?

  1. Learn more about the danger of smoking

Many women manage to quit smoking once they get pregnant. A great role here is played by the maternal instinct – a future mother already at an early age realizes that she is responsible for the health of her baby. Therefore, she changes her old way of life, normalizing nutrition and abandoning harmful habits.

Don’t you really understand the full responsibility that lies on you? Then learn more about the dangers of smoking. Books, medical journals, and websites are suitable for any reliable statistics showing all the risks of smoking during pregnancy. Consult with your gynecologist and a doctor will tell you how negatively nicotine influences the development of the fetus.

However, a friend who was smoking like a chimney for the whole pregnancy and gave birth to a healthy child is not the best model to follow. Advices  that you can smoke during pregnancy (but just less than usual) are not supported by any medical research. Doctors are adamant – nicotine dependence is extremely dangerous. And it does not matter how many cigarettes you smoke per day – 1, 5 or 25.
  1. Change your habits

 Try to correct your established habits. Start by excluding the items you associate with cigarettes from your daily routine. It can be a variety of rituals – morning tea in silence, long conversations over the phone near the open window. It is not necessary to refuse everything pleasant, but at least change locations – nothing should resemble cigarettes. Breakfast not in the kitchen, but in the room. Talk over the phone not on the balcony, but in the bedroom.

  1. Be more active
physical activity

Active physical exercises during pregnancy are not allowed. But light exercises are only welcome if your gynecologist has not identified any contraindications. Sport is useful for the health of a pregnant woman. In addition, it will help distract from the thoughts about cigarettes and adjust the order of the day in which there should be no place for numerous smoke breaks.

Consult with your doctor to find the best sports program that will not harm you or your baby.

  1. Spend more time outdoors

Do not stay at home, walk more. This will help forget about the bad mood caused by cigarette rejection syndrome. Blood will be filled with oxygen, which means toxins, which accumulated in the body during the years of smoking will leave the body faster. In addition, slow walks are an excellent prevention of edema during pregnancy and strengthen the immunity.

  1. Put the rigid deadline

You can’t quite smoking suddenly? Try another method. By reducing the number of cigarettes smoked, set a clear framework for yourself – set the date when cigarettes will be permanently done with. This will allow you to tune to quit the bad habit with the least psychological resistance.

Having reached the deadline, quit smoking forever! There is no need to set another date, thereby delaying the process of eliminating nicotine. Try to quit smoking before pregnancy or in the first trimester to minimize all risks.

  1. Eliminate all irritating factors
support of relatives

Why do people who quitted smoking return to this addiction again? Stress is often the cause. Smoking is a learned behavior model: you need to smoke to calm down, to relieve stress.

To avoid disruptions, you should avoid irritating factors that can lead to imbalance. This in any case is beneficial: the stress state of a future mother negatively affects the development of the fetus. Be calm, don’t be nervous about small things, be distracted from problems with a hobby and outdoor walks.

  1. Look for the support of your loved ones

Relatives will insist that you quit the bad habit as soon as possible. They all want you only good, so listen to what close people tell you. Husband, parents, friends will certainly support you. It is so much easier to fight against nicotine addiction.

But if the close ones smoke in your presence, ask them not to do it. First, passive smoking is also dangerous for a mother and a baby. And secondly, in this case the temptation to smoke increases, which will disrupt all plans to quit cigarettes.

  1. Take advantage of the 7Spsy behavior modification technique

The harm of smoking for a future mother and a baby is obvious. But in some cases, when dependence has already completely taken over a woman, neither studying medical statistics on the dangers of smoking during pregnancy, nor abrupt refusal of cigarettes help get rid of the harmful habit.

If you understand that you can’t manage yourself alone, ask a psychologist for help. Do this as soon as possible to minimize all the risks associated with child bearing.

We will help you to give up smoking!

Make for consultation WATCH VIDEO

The 7Spsy behavior modification technique shows a great result in the fight against various dependencies, including smoking. This is a patented technique based on the theories of famous scientists – I.P Pavlov, B. F. Skinner, A. A. Ukhtomsky. 

Taking the course will help you master a healthy behavior by giving up smoking in a short time. So you will provide your baby with a favorable environment for growth and development. By taking the trainings and following the recommendations of the psychologist, you replace negative behavioral attitudes with positive ones. There will be an understanding that nicotine addiction poisons you and your baby. You will learn to resist the strong desire to smoke.

The 7Spsy behavior modification technique course is designed for up to 6 weeks. If you do not miss the time, by the end of the first trimester you will forget about the addiction even with an impressive experience of tobacco smoking. Participation in the training is confidential. Therefore, if for some or other reason you do not want to tell your close ones of the existing problem, do not do it. You will be able to take the training in a convenient remote mode – specialists will answer all questions and consult by e-mail, in chat rooms and by phone.


  1. «Osobennosti techeniya beremennosti i iskhodov rodov pri tabakokurenii» (ZHurnal akusherstva i zhenskih boleznej, 2014 g., №2), T.V. Semenova, O. N. Arzhanova i dr. (https://cyberleninka.ru/article/v/osobennosti-techeniya-beremennosti-i-ishodov-rodov-pri-tabakokurenii).
  2. «Vliyanie kureniya na beremennost’ i plod» (ZHurnal Nacional’nogo nauchnogo centra hirurgii im. A.N. Syzganova, 2006 g), ZH. M. Nugmanova (https://cyberleninka.ru/article/v/vliyanie-kureniya-na-beremennost-i-plod).
  3. «Neonatologiya», 2004 g., N. P. Shabalov.
  4. «Osobennosti techeniya beremennosti u kuryashchih pacientok», (zhurnal «Rossijskij vestnik akushera-ginekologa, 2010 g., №10), I. V. Kotikova, N. K. Nikiforovskij i dr.