May 31 is World No Tobacco Day! This annual celebration raises awareness about the dangers of tobacco use. Tobacco leaves are used to make products like cigarettes and cigars. Smoke from tobacco contains more than 7,000 chemicals. At least 250 of these are harmful to smokers and nonsmokers.
Smoking can cause many health problems, such as cancer. And smokers who get COVID-19 have a greater risk of serious illness and death than nonsmokers. Smoking during pregnancy can cause problems for your baby, too. When you smoke during pregnancy, dangerous chemicals can pass through the placenta and reach your baby’s bloodstream.
It’s best to quit smoking before you get pregnant. But it’s never too late to quit smoking. Even if you’re already pregnant, quitting can help protect you and your baby from health problems.
What problems can tobacco use cause for your baby?
Smoking during pregnancy can cause many problems for your baby, including:
- Birth defects such as cleft lip and cleft palate. Cleft lip is when a baby’s upper lip doesn’t form completely and has an opening in it. Cleft palate is when a baby’s palate (roof of the mouth) doesn’t form completely and has an opening in it.
- Problems with your baby’s developing lungs and brain.
- Preterm birth. This is birth that happens before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
- Miscarriage or stillbirth. Miscarriage is when a baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Stillbirth is when a baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
- Low birthweight. This is when a baby is born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces.
- Ectopic pregnancy. This is when a fertilized egg implants itself outside of the uterus and begins to grow. An ectopic pregnancy always ends in pregnancy loss.
- Sudden infant death syndrome (also called SIDS or crib death). This is the unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year old. SIDS usually happens when a baby is sleeping.
Secondhand smoke is also dangerous for you and your baby. Secondhand smoke is smoke you breathe in from someone else’s tobacco product. Being around secondhand smoke during pregnancy can cause your baby to be born with low birthweight or birth defects. It can also increase the risk of SIDS.
How can quitting help you and your baby?
Here’s how you help your baby when you quit smoking:
- Your baby gets more oxygen, even after just 1 day. This can help your baby’s lungs develop well.
- Your baby can grow better.
- Your baby is less likely to be born too early.
- Your baby has a lower risk of health problems and birth defects such as cleft lip or cleft palate.
Plus, you have more energy and can breathe easier when you quit smoking. You also lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, lung disease, cancer and other health problems.
How can I quit smoking?
Quitting is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your baby, but it’s not always easy. Here are some tips to help you quit.
How to get support:
- Talk to your health care provider about the best ways to quit. Ask about quitting aids such as patches, gum, nasal spray and medicines. Don’t start using these without talking to your provider, especially if you’re pregnant.
- If you’re pregnant, check out resources especially for pregnant people who are trying to quit.
- Use tools such as Smokefree.gov’s free text message program for pregnant women who are trying to quit. Or, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for advice from a quit smoking counselor.
- Tell your partner and your friends and family that you’re quitting. Ask them to help and support you.
- Look for programs in your community or where you work that can help you quit. These are called smoking cessation programs.
Other things you can do:
- Pick a “quit day.” On that day, throw away all your cigarettes or cigars, lighters and ashtrays. It may also help to make things clean and fresh at home, in your car and at work.
- Remind yourself of all the reasons you want to quit. Write them down and look at the list when you’re tempted to smoke.
- Think about the things that make you feel like smoking. Write down at least one way you can deal with or avoid each thing.
- Keep your hands and mind busy with a new hobby or activity.
- Try taking 10 deep breaths to relax yourself when you feel the urge to smoke. Or do something to distract yourself, like taking a walk or listening to music.
- Celebrate each milestone, like one day, week or month without smoking. Treat yourself with a smoke-free activity you enjoy. Be proud of your accomplishments!
Learn more about smoking and pregnancy.