What happens if you didn’t know you were pregnant and smoked the first month? Would it harm or affect the growth and development of the unborn fetus? In other words, will smoking in early pregnancy without knowing you’re pregnant harm your growing baby?
It’s unlikely that moderate smoking during the first month of pregnancy will be harmful. But it’s still very important for a woman to stop smoking as soon as she knows she’s pregnant — whether she smokes moderately or heavily.
Make sure to share with your doctor that you were smoking in early pregnancy without knowing that you were expecting. But, don’t be too worried because if you stop smoking early in your pregnancy, you can dramatically reduce the risk of harm to your baby.
Actually, a recent study found that pregnant women who quit smoking no later than their third month of pregnancy eliminate all of the risks associated with smoking. The most important thing you can do now is to get serious about quitting smoking.
Taking good care of your health and receiving good prenatal care can eliminate or reduce toxins in your system. It will help ensure you have a healthy pregnancy all the way to the birth of your baby. After all, the healthier you are, the stronger both you and your baby have the potential to be.
Risks of Smoking During Pregnancy
Now that you’re pregnant, you probably realize it’s time to get serious about quitting smoking. You might have heard that women who smoke while pregnant are at higher risk for low birth weight babies and preterm labor. In addition, scientists have found that children of smoking mothers are at greater risk for obesity and diabetes when they are older.
Besides the usual risks of smoking (lung disease, increased risk of heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and other smoking-related illness), smoking during pregnancy also increases your odds of:
- Abnormal bleeding during pregnancy and delivery due to placental problems, such as placenta previa and placental abruption
- An ectopic pregnancy
- Having your water break too early
- Miscarriage, since tobacco smoke keeps your growing baby from getting enough oxygen.
- Stillbirth (smoking actually more than doubles the risk of stillbirth)
If you smoke while you’re pregnant, it’ll double the chances that your baby will be born too early. Babies born pre-term are at a higher risk for birth complications and long-term issues like hearing and vision problems, respiratory difficulties, and learning and behavioral disorders.
Smoking while you’re pregnant also increases your baby’s risk of:
- Pre-term birth
- Birth defects, such as cleft lip, cleft palate, and heart defects.
- Low birth weight: smoking during pregnancy increases the danger of having a low-birth-weight baby by 1.5 to 3.5 times. Babies with a low birth weight can have trouble fighting infections and feeding. Some experience long-term health issues, such as heart disease, diabetes, and developmental delays
- SIDS. Smoking will double the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). The risk of SIDs approximately doubles among infants whose mothers smoked during pregnancy. After birth, the chemicals in secondhand smoke will also increase your baby’s risk of SIDS.
How to Quit Smoking
Many smoking cessation programs and support groups are available to help you quit smoking. Ask your health care provider for more information about these programs.
In addition, here are some practical tips to help you kick the habit:
- Establish your home as a no-smoking area.
- Hide your lighters, matches, and ashtrays.
- Ask people who smoke not to around you.
- Drink fewer caffeinated beverages, as caffeine may encourage your urge to smoke.
- Avoid alcohol since it may also increase your craving to smoke, and it’s harmful to your baby.
- Keep sugarless mints or gum on hand so you can grab one when you get the urge to smoke.
- Stay active! It’ll keep your mind off smoking and help relieve stress: try taking a walk or doing a gentle prenatal yoga routine you find on YouTube
- Seek support from others by joining a smoking cessation program or a support group
- Avoid places where many people are smoking (like bars or clubs)
If you make the commitment to quit smoking, share your decision with family and friends. They can encourage you and support you in your decision. Next, try Nicorette gum to help with the withdrawal symptoms. Acupuncture has been shown to be effective in helping people stop smoking. Finally, clear out your home of cigarettes, and don’t buy any more before your chosen start date.
Smoking in Early Pregnancy Without Knowing
There is no better time to free yourself of this expensive and dangerous habit! You owe it to yourself and your baby to quit smoking for good. For support, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). Calling this toll-free number will connect you directly to the quit line in your state.
Or, give the National Texting Portal a try; it connects you with text message-based support to help you quit smoking. Getting started is quick and easy. Just text QUITNOW to 333888.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on April 18, 2013, and has since been updated.