Smoking, whether done while pregnant or not, is always highly risky and extremely bad for your health. Smoking damages nearly every major organ in the body. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 480,000 people die in the United States due to smoking-related complications, which means that 1 in 5 people lose their lives due to smoking.

Smoking for a pregnant woman is hazardous as not only herself, but her unborn baby’s life is endangered as well. Cigarettes consist of harmful compounds like carbon monoxide, tar, and nicotine, which are tied to scores of serious illnesses like cancer. Smoking while pregnant can cause a range of complications that can be life-threatening to the mother as well as the baby. The following are the risks associated with smoking while being pregnant:

  • Problems with Conceiving

Smoking can render a woman infertile, which can be avoided if smoking is quit. If a woman is trying to get pregnant and is smoking, letting go of the bad habit can be of great help. Aside from that, smoking can also harm the unborn baby during the early months of pregnancy. Regardless of gender, smoking can affect both men and women’s fertility levels in the same way. They are more at risk of having fertility issues as compared to those that do not smoke. 

Second-hand smoke is equally dangerous to the unborn baby, just like first hand smoke. As per the Environmental Protection Agency, second-hand smoke is classified as group A carcinogen, which means that it can cause cancer. 

  • Stillbirth and miscarriage

A pregnant woman is more susceptible to a miscarriage during the first trimester or the early months of gestation. Sometimes miscarriages can also occur as late as 20 weeks of pregnancy, which is known as a stillbirth.

As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking while pregnant raises the risk of miscarriages and stillbirths, mainly caused by the harmful compounds found in cigarettes. Along with miscarriage and stillbirths, smoking can also interfere with the proper development of the baby, which can also contribute to miscarriage and stillbirths. 

As per a paper published in the medical journal known as PLoS One, the substance found in cigarettes known as nicotine causes the fallopian tubes to contract. This can hinder the passing of an embryo through it, which can cause an ectopic pregnancy.

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg instead of attaching itself to the uterine lining implants itself outside the uterine canal, which can be either the abdominal area or the fallopian tubes. Ectopic pregnancy can be fatal for the mother, so the embryo should be removed as soon as possible. 

  • Placental abruption

A placenta is an organ that develops during pregnancy; it is through this organ that the baby gets all the nutrients and the oxygen from the mother. The placenta is attached to the baby through the umbilical cord. Smoking during pregnancy is linked to a condition known as placental abruption.

During placental abruption, the placenta gets detached from the uterus even before the baby is born. It can cause intense bleeding, which can be life-threatening for both the mother and the baby. The detached placenta cannot be attached back to the uterus, so if medical attention is provided promptly, it can be delivered despite the placental abruption. 

The placenta is an organ that develops in the top part of the uterus, which leaves the bottom part of it consisting of the cervix free from any blockages to aid delivery. Through the placenta, the baby gets the required nutrients and the oxygen for its proper development.

During placenta previa, the placenta, instead of growing in the top part, develops in the bottom part of the uterus, covering the cervix partially or completely. During delivery, because of this condition, the mother experiences severe bleeding. 

  • Early delivery

As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking during pregnancy can cause the baby’s early delivery. It is when the baby is born before the completion of the nine months, which means that the baby is not fully developed yet. Early delivery is associated with a lot of risks for the baby, such as:

  • vision and hearing problems
  • mental disability
  • behavioral issues
  • learning problems
  • risk of death
  • Low birth weight

Smoking while pregnant can also cause the baby to be born with low birth weight. This results in the baby being extremely tiny, and along with that, the baby can also have other medical issues. Despite the fact that in recent times the deaths of babies due to having low birth weight have been greatly reduced, it still poses a lot of risks that can be fatal as well. Low birth weight is associated with the following complications:

  • cerebral palsy
  • hearing and vision impairments
  • delay in the development of the baby

In very rare cases, low birth weight can also cause a baby’s death as per the American Cancer Society quitting the habit of smoking before conceiving can minimize the risk of the baby being born with low birth weight. Even those women that quit smoking while they are pregnant can successfully lower the risk of delivering babies with low birth weight as compared to those that continue smoking throughout their pregnancy. 

  • Birth defects

Smoking while being pregnant can increase the risk of the baby being born with certain birth defects. Among these, the most common birth defects are congenital heart problems, which is a defect in the heart’s overall structure. Some other common birth defects that are caused due to smoking during pregnancy are cleft palate and cleft lip. 

The Takeaway

Smoking is extremely bad for health, and it is associated with various health issues like cancer. Pregnant women that smoke during pregnancy are putting both theirs and their baby’s life in danger. Moreover, smoking during pregnancy can cause complications for both the mother and the baby that can even be fatal. A lot of complications related to pregnancy, like miscarriages, stillbirths, and birth defects, can be avoided if the mother stops smoking.


  • Reference taken from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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