Taking care of your baby by protecting them from cigarette smoke is one of the best things you can do for their health.

It's great to stop smoking as early as possible, but remember, it's never too late to quit.

Quitting smoking can be challenging, but getting support can make a big difference. Your doctor or midwife can provide you with the help and advice you need. They're there to support you, not judge you, and their main goal is to ensure you have a safe and healthy pregnancy.

How Does Smoking Effect My Baby?

Every cigarette you smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals and many of these can harm your unborn baby.  

Cigarettes can reduce the amount of oxygen and nutrients that pass through the placenta from you to your baby. This increases the risk of serious pregnancy complications, including miscarriage, premature birth and your baby having a low birth rate.

Secondhand smoke (also known as passive smoking) can affect you and your baby before and after their birth, too. Breathing in other people’s tobacco smoke while pregnant causes toxins (nicotine and carbon monoxide) to enter your blood and pass into your unborn baby.

Support for Quitting Smoking During Pregnancy

Evidence shows that the most effective way to quit smoking is through expert behavioural support from local stop smoking services, along with stop smoking aids.

Local stop smoking services are free and have trained advisers who can offer one-on-one support. Depending on where you live, this could be at a clinic, in your home, or over the phone. Many also offer group sessions, and you can bring a friend or partner if that helps.

During your first meeting, the adviser will ask about your smoking habits, such as:

  • How long you've been smoking
  • How much you smoke
  • When you have your first cigarette of the day
  • If you live with other smokers

This helps them understand your smoking habits and any concerns you have about quitting.

Together, you'll decide on the best plan for quitting smoking. The adviser can provide information on treatments and ways to manage cravings.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) in Pregnancy

If you can't quit smoking without help, you can use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) during pregnancy. NRT contains nicotine but not the harmful chemicals found in cigarettes. It can be prescribed by a GP or an NHS stop smoking adviser, and you can also buy it over the counter at a pharmacy.

Before using any NRT products, speak to a midwife, GP, pharmacist or specialist stop smoking adviser.

NRT is available in various forms, including:

  • Patches
  • Gum
  • Inhalator
  • Nasal spray
  • Mouth spray
  • Oral strips
  • Lozenges
  • Microtabs

Patches can be particularly useful if you have morning sickness, but they should be used for no more than 16 hours a day, which means removing the patch at bedtime.

Stop Smoking Tablets

Stop smoking tablets like Champix (varenicline) or Zyban (bupropion) are not recommended during pregnancy.

Avoiding Liquorice-Flavoured Nicotine Products

While there’s no known risk with liquorice flavouring itself, liquorice root is not recommended during pregnancy, so it's best to avoid these products to be safe.

E-cigarettes and Vaping

There's limited research on the safety of e-cigarettes during pregnancy. They don’t produce tar or carbon monoxide, which are harmful to developing babies. However, e-cigarette vapour still contains some potentially harmful chemicals, though at much lower levels than cigarette smoke. If e-cigarettes help you quit smoking, they're much safer for you and your baby than continuing to smoke, but licensed NRT products like patches and gum are the recommended options.

Baby Movements

Monitoring your baby’s movements is an important part of keeping track of their wellbeing, especially if you have pre-eclampsia or other pregnancy condition. If you think your baby’s movements have slowed down or stopped, contact your maternity unit immediately. Midwives and doctors are there to help you - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

More Resources

QUIT is a charity offering professional advice, tips, tools, and ideas to help you quit smoking. You can call their free helpline at 0800 00 22 00.

The NHS Quit Smoking app offers a 28-day program to guide you through your first weeks without cigarettes, providing practical support and encouragement to help you quit for good.

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