You're in! See your latest actions or visit profile and dashboard
Account Information
Dashboard
March for Babies Dashboard

  • Preferences
  • Messages
  • Favorites

Smoking, alcohol and drugs

  • Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or use drugs during pregnancy.
  • These can cause lifelong health problems for your baby.
  • If you need help to quit, tell your health care provider.
Now playing:
save print
e-mail

Smoking during pregnancy

Like drinking too much alcohol or doing drugs, smoking is also very harmful to your health. It can cause serious health conditions including cancer, heart disease, stroke and gum disease. It can also cause eye diseases that can lead to blindness. Smoking can make it harder for a woman to get pregnant.

How does smoking harm your pregnancy?

Not only is smoking harmful to you, it's also harmful to your baby during pregnancy. When you smoke during pregnancy, your baby is exposed to dangerous chemicals like nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar. These chemicals can lessen the amount of oxygen that your baby gets. Oxygen is very important for helping your baby grow healthy. Smoking can also damage your baby's lungs.

Women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have:

Does smoking during pregnancy harm your baby?

Yes. Babies born to women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to be born:

Babies born prematurely and at low birthweight are at risk of other serious health problems, including lifelong disabilities (such as , intellectual disabilities and learning problems), and in some cases, death.

What is secondhand smoke?

Breathing in someone else's smoke is also harmful. Secondhand smoke during pregnancy can cause a baby to be born at low birthweight. Secondhand smoke is also dangerous to young children. Babies exposed to secondhand smoke:

  • Are more likely to die from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)
  • Are at greater risk for asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, ear infections, respiratory symptoms
  • May experience slow lung growth

What is thirdhand smoke?

New research shows that thirdhand smoke is another health hazard. Thirdhand smoke is made up of the toxic gases and particles left behind from cigarette or cigar smoking. These toxic remains, which include lead, arsenic and carbon monoxide, cling to things like clothes, hair, couches and carpets well after the smoke from a cigarette or cigar has cleared the room. That’s why you often can tell a smoker by the smell of cigarettes or cigars that linger on his clothing or in his home or car. Things like cracking the car window down while you smoke or smoking in another room aren’t enough to keep others away from the harm caused by cigarettes or cigars.

Breathing in these toxins at an early age (babies and young children) may have devastating health problems like asthma and other breathing issues, learning disorders and cancer. It's important that expecting moms and their children do their best to keep away from places where people smoke.

Why should you quit smoking?

The sooner you quit smoking during pregnancy, the healthier you and your baby will be. It's best to quit smoking before getting pregnant. But if you're pregnant, this would be a great opportunity to kick the habit.

Some women may mistakenly think that switching to "light" or "mild" cigarettes are a safer choice during pregnancy. Other pregnant women may want to cut down on smoking rather than quitting altogether. It's true that the less you smoke, the better off baby will be. But quitting smoking is the best way to help ensure a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby.

Besides, when you quit smoking, you'll never again have to go outside and look for a place to smoke. You'll also have:

  • Cleaner teeth
  • Fresher breath
  • Fewer stain marks on your fingers
  • Fewer skin wrinkles
  • A better sense of smell and taste
  • More strength and ability to be more active

What are some tips to quit?

If you're trying to quit smoking, these tips may be helpful:

  • Write down your reasons for quitting. Look at the list when you are tempted to smoke.
  • Choose a "quit day." On that day, throw away all your cigarettes or cigars, lighters and ashtrays.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Keep your hands busy using a small stress ball or doing some needlework.
  • Keep yourself occupied, too. Try going for a walk or doing chores to keep your mind off of cravings.
  • Snack on some raw veggies or chew some sugarless gum to ease the need to have something in your mouth.
  • Stay away from places, activities or people that make you feel like smoking.
  • Ask your partner or a friend to help you quit. Call that person when you feel like smoking.
  • Ask your health care provider about quitting aids such as patches, gum, nasal spray and medications.
  • Don't start using these without your health care provider's okay, especially if you're pregnant.
  • Don't get discouraged if you don't quit completely right away. Keep trying. If you can't quit, cut back as much as you can.
  • Ask your employer to see what services are offered or covered by insurance.
  • Learn about smoking cessation programs in your community or from your employer. You can get more information from you health care provider, hospital or health department.

For more information

smokefree.gov (1-800-Quit-Now)
National Tobacco Cessation Collaborative 
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Last reviewed April 2010

Things to avoid

  • Alcohol, in any quantity
  • Smoking and secondhand smoke
  • Herbs or supplements not OK with your doctor
  • Medicines obtained without prescription
Talk with your doctor about all the medicines you take.

Most common questions

Can I keep taking all my prescriptions during pregnancy?

It depends on the drug. Tell your prenatal care provider about any prescription drugs you take. Some drugs may be harmful to a growing baby. You may need to stop taking a drug or switch to a drug that's safer for your baby. Don't take anyone else's prescription drugs. And don't take any prescription drug unless your prenatal care provider knows about it.

I drank before I knew I was pregnant. Is my baby hurt?

It's unlikely that an occasional drink before you realized you were pregnant will harm your baby. But the baby's brain and other organs begin developing around the third week of pregnancy, so they could be affected by alcohol in these early weeks. The patterns of drinking that place a baby at greatest risk for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) are binge drinking and drinking seven or more drinks per week. However, FASDs can and do occur in babies of women who drink less. Because no amount of alcohol has been proven safe during pregnancy, a woman should stop drinking immediately if she even suspects she could be pregnant. And she should not drink alcohol if she is trying to become pregnant.

Is it OK to drink wine in my third trimester?

No amount of alcohol has been proven safe during pregnancy. To ensure your baby's health and safety, don't drink alcohol while you're pregnant. Alcohol includes beer, wine, wine coolers and liquor. If you need help to stop drinking alcohol, tell your health care provider.

Have questions?

Join our efforts

Learn when you can make a difference to moms and babies