Smoking is one of the most important causes of poor pregnancy outcomes in the United States and is strongly associated with significant risks and complications to the mother, the fetus inside the womb, and the infant after birth.
Pregnancy appears to motivate almost 50% of women to stop smoking directly before or during pregnancy. For patients who are interested in quitting it is important to create a smoke-free space at home and helpful to have a “quitting buddy.”
Smoking during pregnancy is a public health problem because of the many adverse effects associated with it. These include intrauterine growth restriction, placenta previa, abruption placentae, decreased maternal thyroid function, preterm premature rupture of membranes, low birth weight, perinatal mortality/stillbirth, miscarriage and ectopic pregnancies.
An estimated 5-8% of preterm deliveries, 13-19% of term deliveries of infants with low birth weight, 23-34% of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) cases, and 5-7% of preterm-related infant deaths can be attributed to maternal prenatal smoking.
The risks of smoking during pregnancy extend beyond pregnancy-related complications. Children born to mothers who smoke during pregnancy are at an increased risk of asthma, infantile colic, and childhood obesity. Secondhand prenatal exposure to tobacco smoke also increases the risk of having an infant with low birth weight by as much as 20%.
Although quitting smoking before 15 weeks in pregnancy yields the greatest benefits for the pregnant woman and fetus, quitting at any point can be beneficial.
Approximately 50-60% of women who quit smoking during pregnancy return to smoking within 1 year postpartum, putting at risk their health, that of their infants and the outcomes of future pregnancies.
“Quit lines” offer information, direct support, ongoing counseling and have been very successful in helping pregnant smokers quit and remain smoke-free. By dialing the national quit line network (1-800-QUIT NOW), a caller is immediately routed to her state’s smokers’ quit line.
The physical and psychological addiction to cigarettes is powerful, but it is possible for every smoker to quit. There is no more powerful motivation to quit than a mother’s natural instinct to keep her baby safe.