Exposure to Tobacco Smoke During Pregnancy

-There is never a good time to be exposed to the poisons in tobacco smoke, but smoking during pregnancy is the worst! There are over 400 toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke; over 43 of these are known to cause cancer. These toxins have harmful effects on both the mother and the developing baby. Come learn a bit about me, and why I’ve started this blog.

Between 6-8% of women smoke during pregnancy in the United States.

I recently published an article in the Jordanian magazine ‘Family Flavours’ about the effects of smoking in Jordan on pregnant women and their babies. Approximately 8% of pregnant women in Jordan smoke cigarettes and 7% smoke the Argeeleh (a kind of hookah pipe) during pregnancy. What is really remarkable is that 83% of pregnant women in Jordan exposed to “second-hand smoke,” or “sidestream smoke,” which is just as bad, if not worse for the developing baby.

Exposure to Second-Hand Smoking During Pregnancy Causes

  • An increase chance of miscarriage.
  • An increased risk of stillbirth.
  • Poor growth of the baby in the womb.
  • Preterm delivery with its effects on the baby and the family.
  • An increased chance of certain type of birth defects like cleft lip, intestinal malformations, heart defects, kidney problems, and problems with the development of the limbs and fingers.
  • Damage to the developing baby’s brain and lungs.


[bctt tweet=”Smoking is linked to Birth Defects. Stop smoking. Do it for your baby!“]

The effects of exposure to tobacco smoke during pregnancy can last long after your baby is born.

Lasting Effects of Both First-Hand and Second-Hand Smoking During Pregnancy On Your Baby:

Moms who smoke while they are pregnant often do not realize that the effects of smoking last long after the pregnancy is over. Here is a short list of the long term consequences of  smoking during pregnancy on the babies who are exposed:

  • Fussiness and increased crying in babies born to moms who smoke or are exposed to cigarette smoke while they are pregnant.
  • Sleep difficulties .
  • Smoking during pregnancy decreases the size of certain parts of the baby’s brain.
  • Sudden infant death syndrome is 2-4 times more common in babies who were exposed to cigarette smoke during pregnancy.
  • Increased incidence of asthma.
  • Increased incidence of Infections of the respiratory tract like ear infections, bronchitis and pneumonia.
  • Short stature.
  • Behavior problems.
  • Short attention span and ADHD.
  • Poor school performance.
  • Childhood obesity.
  • Type 2 diabetes is 2-4 times more common in a young adult whose mom smoked 10 or more cigarettes a day while she was  pregnant than in one who was not exposed.
  • Increased risk of neurologic problems like tics, Tourette’s syndrome, and Schizophrenia.
  • Decreased sperm count in adulthood in boys born to moms who smoked.
  • Earlier sexual maturation and decreased ability to conceive  and become pregnant are also among of the long term consequences of smoking during pregnancy.
  • Increased chances of smoking later in life, even if there was no more exposure to tobacco after the baby was born.

Exposure to tobacco smoke while you are pregnant will also affect your ability to breast-feed!

Effects of smoking on Breast-Feeding

 Moms who are exposed to first- or second-hand tobacco smoke during pregnancy:

  • Make less breast milk.
  • Make milk with less milk fat in it (fat in mother’s milk helps grow healthy brains!).
  • Usually can’t breastfeed as long as mothers who are non-smokers, or were not exposed to tobacco smoke.
  • Babies whose moms smoke while breastfeeding sleep less than babies whose moms don’t smoke (that means the moms sleep less!).


Smoking in the household affects everybody in the household especially babies and children:

Babies and children who are exposed to tobacco smoke after birth:

  • Have more infections of their airways especially ear infections, bronchitis and pneumonia.
  • Experience more episodes of coughing and wheezing.
  • Stand a higher chance of developing asthma especially when there is a family history of the disease.
  • If a baby or child already has asthma, smoke anywhere in their environment can cause worsening of their symptoms which means they are sick more often, are on medicine more often and are hospitalized more frequently.
  • Have hardening of their arteries early in life.
  • Get more cavities in their first teeth.
  • Exposure to tobacco smoke also possibly  causes an increase in childhood cancers such as leukemias, lymphomas and brain tumors.
  • Children of parents who smoke have a much higher chance of becoming smokers themselves.


Quitting smoking is one of the greatest gifts you can give your baby if you are a smoker. Not only are you protecting him/her from the harmful effects of tobacco smoke both now and in the future, you are also decreasing the chance that your baby will become a smoker one day.

As always, I would love to hear your stories, comments or questions. How have you dealt with smoke-exposure during pregnancy? Do you or your partner smoke? Are you pregnant? Are you worried about your baby’s or child’s exposure? Please leave a comment and share…
To your holistic health,

Ask Dr. Linda