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Pregnancy and the Benefits of Quitting Smoking

If you smoke and you're either pregnant or are planning a family, it's important you know the cigarettes and their smoke give off chemicals that can have a negative impact on fertility, sexual health, and the fetus. Fortunately, if you're pregnant and you smoke, and you want to quit, you will increase your likelihood of a healthier pregnancy, as soon as you quit.

Women and Fertility

Before starting your quit journey, please talk with your doctor or healthcare professional for advice about quitting smoking while trying to conceive, are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Smoking causes hormonal changes and reduces fertility by about a third. On average, smokers take twice as long as non-smokers to conceive a child.

Smoking while on the contraceptive pill promotes clot formation, damages and narrows the walls of blood vessels, and significantly increases your risk for cardiovascular complications – even a stroke.

Cigarettes sometimes disturb women’s menstruation cycles, making them irregular and more painful.

Smoking and Pregnancy

Pregnant women who smoke have a greater risk of preterm delivery or stillbirth. They also put their babies at a higher risk of low birth weight and even death during their first year of life.3Fortunately, in Canada, in recent years, prenatal smoking has steadily declined. In fact, data from a Maternity Experiences Survey (MES) showed it went from a22% reported rate in 1992-1995 to a 12% reported rate in 2005-2008.3

During pregnancy, anything you're putting into your own body can affect your baby. Therefore, if you smoke, you are exposing your baby to chemicals, like carbon monoxide and nicotine.

If you smoke and you become pregnant, now is the best time to quit. Even if you don't smoke, you'll still want to avoid second-hand smoke as much as possible. If you're not pregnant and are considering getting pregnant and you smoke, you'll want to set up a plan for quitting before trying to become pregnant.

By quitting smoking prior to becoming pregnant (or during your first three months of being pregnant), you'll have the same risk of delivering a baby with low birth weight as a woman who doesn't smoke has.4Even if you quit later on during your pregnancy, you're still reducing your risk of issues for your baby.4

Giving up smoking will take some baby steps. It's never too late to give up smoking while pregnant for many reasons, including the smoking side effects during pregnancy. Giving up smoking before you become pregnant is the best thing you can do for both you and your baby. The sooner you give smoking up, the better - and it doesn't just benefit your baby.

Benefits for You

Not only will quitting smoking benefit your baby, but also it will benefit you. Once you quit smoking, you will:5

  • Lower your heart rate and blood pressure
  • Save money
  • Improve your health and reduce your risk of cancer
  • Reduce your risk of complications such as pre-term labor, miscarriage or making less breastmilk
  • Break the cycle of addiction and take your life back

Of course, quitting smoking will definitely benefit your baby.

Benefits for Your Baby

By quitting smoking during pregnancy:6

  • You're not passing any harmful chemicals like carbon monoxide and nicotine to your baby
  • Your baby has a higher chance of being born full-term
  • Your baby has a better chance of being at a healthy weight when born
  • You're reducing your child's health risks like Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), ear infections, asthma, learning problems, behavioral problems, and Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Smoking Side Effects During Pregnancy

Smoking and pregnancy don't mix. If you smoke while you're pregnant, you couldincrease the risk of:7

  • Miscarriage and stillbirth
  • A low-birth-weight baby
  • Preterm labor
  • Birth defects
  • Placenta previa and abruptio placenta
  • Early death in life (i.e. SIDS)
  • If you expose your baby to smoke after birth, they'll be more prone to breathing problems and illness

Breastfeeding and Smoking

If you breastfeed your baby and you smoke, remember that they'll still be exposed to the nicotine and other chemicals through your breast milk.8

However, thebest way to feed your babyis through breastfeeding, even if you smoke.9Breastfeeding's benefits outweigh tobacco's harmful effects on your baby's health. Breastfeeding your baby is one of the most important things you can do. If you do smoke, you can still help protect your baby by:

  • Cutting back on how many cigarettes you smoke
  • Have a smoke-free car and home
  • Wash your hands after you smoke before you breastfeed
  • Change your clothes before you breastfeed if you've smoked

How to Quit Smoking While PregnantThere are steps you can take to learn how to quit smoking while pregnant.

1. Get Prepared

If you're planning on becoming pregnant, decide on a quit date that will work for you. If you are currently pregnant, immediately stop smoking. If you're unable to quit, at least try and cut down as much as possible. Consult with your physician about a program that can help you stop smoking.

Eliminate your cigarettes, lighters, and ashtrays. Clean your clothing and home to eliminate the smoke smell, which could elicit cravings. If you're living with a person who smokes, talk about quitting together. If this isn't an option, ensure they know not to smoke around you. Avoid places where other people are smoking when you can.

2. Create a Plan to Quit Smoking

Figure out which times are the most difficult for you, like when you're around people who smoke, when you're feeling restless, or after eating. Then plan how you're going to deal with triggers and cravings during these times.

Change your regular routine. Try to avoid things that typically cause you to light up. Find ways of coping. For instance, you can go for a walk after you eat dinner rather than lighting up a cigarette. Cut back on stress as much as possible in your first several weeks of quitting smoking and consult with your doctor about things that can help you quit.

3. Get Support

Ask your family and friends who used to smoke for tips and support. Maybe get some counselling. Individuals who use group, telephone or one-on-one counselling have a greater chance of stopping smoking. You can join a support group for individuals who smoke.

Men and Fertility

Smoking can negatively impact your chances of conceiving because smoking may have a damaging effect on sperm.

Human sperm has two proteins called protamine 1 and protamine 2, which naturally exist in a 1-1 relationship. In smokers, sperm cells are more likely to carry too little of protamine 2. This imbalance makes them very vulnerable to DNA damage.

Scientists believe that this damaged sperm cannot fight free radicals in seminal fluid, which carries sperm. Smoking too, increases the amount of free radicals in seminal fluid, which then causes the damaged sperm to be attacked1.

Smoking, furthermore, makes you twice as likely to experience erectile dysfunction than non-smokers2. By quitting smoking, you can fully or partially recover erectile function.

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