Smoking during pregnancy: danger to unborn life

Smoking during pregnancy: danger to unborn life

“Every woman is strongly advised to stop smoking as early as possible during pregnancy,” advises American neuroscientist Lise Eliot. Here, you can find out why pregnant women should never smoke or be exposed to secondhand smoke and what the consequences of smoking during pregnancy can be for an unborn baby.

Consequences of smoking during pregnancy

Each dose of nicotine leads to a reduced supply of oxygen and nutrients to the fetus via reduced blood flow to the placenta and thus to growth and development disorders. The episodes known so far include:

  • an increased risk of miscarriage or premature birth
  • a low birth weight
  • problems at birth
  • an increased risk of congenital disabilities, congenital heart defects or intellectual disabilities
  • the increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SID)
  • Hyperactivity (ADHD), behavioural problems, language disorders and learning difficulties in school age
  • the development of allergies and respiratory diseases such as asthma

The harm that can happen to a child if its mother smokes during pregnancy is also known as  Fetal Tobacco Syndrome.


Being an underweight of the newborn is underestimated as a risk.

In particular, the underweight of newborns has been underestimated as a health risk. Because even if, after a few weeks, the lightweights have caught up with the non-smoker babies on the scales, the difference is not out of the world: Babies who are too light at birth and have to put on a lot in the first few weeks of life to reach an average weight are often plagued by morbid obesity as adults – a fate that every responsible mother should spare her child as much as possible.

Children often become smokers themselves.

The consequences for children who are exposed to nicotine during pregnancy are more far-reaching than many smokers want to admit. In addition to the direct damage to the health of the child, there is a very high risk that it will later become a smoker itself. It doesn’t matter whether the mother smokes herself or whether the pregnant woman is exposed to the smoke of others.


Smoking while pregnant: long-term effects of nicotine

Cigarette consumption during pregnancy also has other long-term consequences for the baby. In a long-term study published in the British health journal BMJ*, which began in 1958, 17,000 women were asked about their smoking habits during pregnancy and the health of their children was documented over many years.

The results were precise: by the age of 33, a significantly higher number of children whose mothers had smoked during pregnancy suffered from diabetes or obesity than in the control group, who had not yet had any contact with the neurotoxin nicotine in the womb. The mother’s addiction causes a lifelong metabolic disorder in her unborn child.

Quit six tips for quitting smoking during pregnancy.

It is advisable to stop smoking at any time during pregnancy – the earlier, the better. The following tips can help you successfully quit smoking during pregnancy:

  1. Talk to your family doctor or gynaecologist about your plans to get support and advice.
  2. If your partner also smokes, you should quit together – this way, you can support and motivate each other.
  3. A conscious change in diet, which often occurs during pregnancy anyway, can help to prevent unintentional weight gain as a result of stopping smoking.
  4. Relaxation techniques such as yoga or autogenic training are helpful ways to get stress and tension under control.
  5. If you’re at risk of relapsing, remember this: Nicotine replacement products like nicotine patches or gum are still better than cigarettes as they contain other toxic substances that can harm your baby. Talk to your doctor about this.
  6. Remember: every cigarette not smoked is a success and helps to protect your baby’s health.

If you have succeeded in quitting smoking, you will remain strong even after the pregnancy. Even when you are breastfeeding or during the later development of your baby, smoking not only harms your child’s health but also your own.

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