Tobacco use during pregnancy

Newborns who have been exposed to tobacco during pregnancy generally weigh less, are smaller in height, and have smaller heads and brains. Something to seriously think about.

What do we know?
  • Nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke reduce the amount of oxygen available to the foetus, which slows down its growth and also slows down the development of its heart, brain and several other organs.
  • Using tobacco during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy and premature delivery.
  • Sudden infant death syndrome, respiratory problems (such as asthma), and infections (such as ear infections) happen more often among newborns exposed to second-hand smoke.
  • Using tobacco during pregnancy increases the risk of other physical health problems (such as obesity) during childhood or adolescence.
  • Children and adolescents who were exposed to tobacco smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have behaviour problems, attention disorders, poor impulse control, hyperactivity, and problems related to crime and drug abuse.
  • Children exposed to tobacco during pregnancy are at higher risk of becoming smokers themselves.
  • Stopping smoking before pregnancy has important benefits for both mother and child, but stopping at the beginning or during pregnancy also has positive effects.
  • In addition to greatly improving the health of children and other family members, stopping smoking will also improve your own health.
Paying attention to...
  • your relationship with tobacco and your smoking behaviour during pregnancy.
  • the behaviours of the people around you.
  • the resources available to help you in your efforts. 
What can be done?
  • Remind yourself of your previous attempts to stop smoking.
  • Identify the things that make you want to smoke, and those that help you to stop.
  • Talk about smoking with your partner and your parents.
  • Look for support from family members, friends and colleagues, especially those who are non-smokers or who have quit smoking.
  • Involve your partner, for encouragement and support (it can be easier for two people to give up smoking together).
  • Use available community resources and telephone help lines to get support when you need it.
  • To get started, do some reading on the subject.
  • See your doctor for information on other methods that might be of help.

This article is a publication from the Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development.

Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development (CEECD)

The mandate of the CEECD is to foster the dissemination of scientific knowledge on the development of young children with an emphasis, but not exclusively, on the social and emotional development and on the services and policies that influence this development.

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