Smoking in pregnancy


Content last reviewed: 4 February 2015

Babies born to women who smoke during pregnancy are around 40% more likely to die within the first four weeks of life than babies born to non smokers (1) 

Stopping smoking whilst pregnant is the single most effective step a woman can take to improve her health and the health of her baby. The health and wellbeing of the mother is crucial to support the healthy development of the baby and the early years which lay down the foundation for the whole of their life.

Smoking in pregnancy has substantial adverse effects on the foetus. There are over 4000 chemicals in tobacco smoke which can cross through the placenta and have a direct toxic effect on the foetus. These include carbon monoxide, nicotine and cyanide which cross the placenta and reduce oxygen and nutrients transferring to foetal tissues. Carboxyhaemoglobin (COHb) is formed in the bloodstream and starves the body tissue of oxygen vital to repair and regenerate.  


(1) Gardosi J, Beamish N, Francis A, Williams M, Sahota M, Tonks A, McGeown P and Hart M. Stillbirth and Infant mortality, West Midlands 1997-2005:Trends, Factors, Inequalities. The West Midlands Perinatal Institute

Last updated Friday, 22nd April 2016