The moment you see a positive pregnancy test you begin thinking about what you can do to ensure your baby is healthy. If you are an active smoker when you get your positive test, you might wonder about smoking during pregnancy.
Perhaps you’ve heard that smoking during pregnancy is really unhealthy and you should quit ASAP.
Or maybe you’ve heard that quitting cold turkey is riskier, because of the stress.
Maybe your friends and family smoked during pregnancy and everything seemed fine, so you wonder if it’s really that much of a problem.
While many of our parents might have smoked during pregnancy, we now know for sure that smoking during pregnancy has risks.
Pregnancy and Smoking Myths
Here are 8 smoking and pregnancy myths busted:
Myth #1: Quitting Smoking Can Harm My Baby
You might have heard that abruptly quitting smoking can cause withdrawal and stress, which will harm your baby. To date, there’s no evidence that quitting will cause any harm to your baby. In fact, evidence supports quitting as early as possible in your pregnancy. Quitting smoking will reduce your risk of miscarriage, preterm birth, and other complications.
If you’re a very heavy smoker, trying to quit cold turkey might not work well. In that case, it might be a good idea to work with your doctor to find a smoking cessation program that’s right for you and safe for pregnancy. BellyBelly recommends Allen Carr's Easyway to Stop Smoking which is safe and effective during pregnancy.
Myth #2: Smoking Less Will Reduce Risks For My Baby
There’s no prescribed safe amount of smoking during pregnancy. For this reason, there’s no real way to reduce the risks of smoking during pregnancy other than quitting completely.
While cutting back can be a great stepping stone to quitting, keep your eye on the end result: no smoking. Quitting now will reduce your baby’s risk of being born prematurely, having a low birthweight, and even SIDS.
Myth #3: Light Cigarettes Are A Safer Option
Despite marketing claims, even light cigarettes are full of harmful ingredients. These ingredients, regardless of cigarette type or brand, pose a risk to you and your unborn baby. It’s ideal to quit smoking all types of cigarettes – during and after pregnancy.
After you give birth, all cigarettes can still pose a risk to your new baby and other children.
Myth #4: I’m Fine, My Other Baby’s Fine – Smoking Isn’t That Risky
Perhaps your mother smoked during her pregnancy with you. Maybe your friend smoked during her pregnancy and had a healthy eight-pound baby. You might have even smoked during a previous pregnancy and your little one is healthy.
It’s wonderful that some babies don’t experience ill effects due to maternal smoking. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees in terms of which babies will be affected and which won’t. There will always be risks attached to smoking and the only way to eliminate the risks is to quit smoking.
Myth #5: A Low Birthweight Means An Easier Labour
One risk of smoking during pregnancy is that your baby will have a low birthweight. At first, that might sound appealing. However, having a smaller baby doesn’t equal an easier or shorter labour. The size of your baby has little impact on how your labour will unfold. Under healthy circumstances, your body makes a baby with the healthiest birthweight. Some babies will be small, some will be larger.
When your a pregnancy isn’t occurring under healthy circumstances (e.g. smoking, uncontrolled gestational diabetes, etc) your baby might be bigger or smaller than is ideal for her. A baby with a low birthweight due to unhealthy circumstances is more likely to face short and long term health complications such as an NICU stay, blood sugar issues, inability to maintain body temperature, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Myth #6: Smoking Reduces Stress Which Lowers Blood Pressure
Many people find smoking to be an instant device to help deal with daily stressors. While initially you might feel calmer, the negative biological effects of smoking during pregnancy outweigh any benefits related to stress relief.
Pregnant or not, while you might feel less stressed, smoking actually increases your blood pressure. That, along with the chemicals found in cigarettes, can cause a reduction in oxygen in the blood flow to your baby, which can lead to negative effects on your baby’s development.
Myth #7: I’m Further Along In My Pregnancy So There’s No Benefit To Quitting Now
Whether you’re four weeks or thirty-nine weeks pregnant, there are many benefits for you and your baby if you quit smoking. Even though your baby has already been exposed to some effects of smoking, the less exposure the better.
Also, second hand smoke is a serious health concern for infants and children. Along with respiratory issues and allergies, second hand smoke can increase the risk of SIDS. Quitting now will not only help your baby during fetal development, it will give her a healthier start after birth.
And let’s not forget about your health. You matter too! When you quit smoking, at any time, you will significantly improve your own short and long term health.
Myth #8: I Shouldn’t Breastfeed If I Haven’t Quit Smoking
While it’s ideal that you quit smoking during pregnancy, for a variety of reasons some women continue to smoke during and after pregnancy. There are still risks to your baby via second and third hand smoke exposure, but evidence actually supports breastfeeding, even if you haven’t quit smoking.
While smoking exposure increases the risk of SIDS and respiratory issues for your baby, not breastfeeding only increases those risks further. When you choose to breastfeed, your baby receives the protective properties of the breastfeeding relationship.
Read more about smoking and breastfeeding.
Pregnancy can be a wonderful time to start making healthier choices for you and your baby. It’s important to make sure you make evidence-based choices, and work with your maternity care provider, to have your healthiest possible pregnancy. We now know that smoking during pregnancy has risks, and even though some babies seem okay, it’s best to do better when we know better.