We don’t need to address how smoking isn’t good for your health – you’ve heard that before. But when it comes to smoking while pregnant, the health risks increase – for you and your baby.
But quitting is hard. I see patients all the time who have difficulty. The important thing is to remember that this doesn't make you weak. Cigarettes are a drug. Drugs are addictive. Quitting smoking usually isn't something you can just snap your fingers and be done with.
So, the best way to quit smoking is to just get started in some way. Below we share some tips to help you quit smoking, and also talk about why it’s important to quit smoking before pregnancy and why it’s especially important after you find out you’re pregnant.
Why should you try to quit smoking before pregnancy?
Quitting cigarette smoking isn’t easy for most, so it may take a while to be tobacco free. So, if you wait to quit smoking until you get pregnant, there’s a greater chance you won’t be able to quit in time to reduce the effects that smoking has on pregnancy.
What happens if you smoke while pregnant?
Chemicals in cigarettes – like nicotine and carbon monoxide – increase the risk factor for a variety of pregnancy complications and birth defects. These include preterm labor, low baby birthweight, miscarriage, stillbirth and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
If you can quit before you become pregnant, your risk of having a baby with low birthweight is reduced to the same as that of a woman who has never smoked.
How long should you stop smoking before pregnancy?
As soon as you can. The sooner you quit, the sooner you can decrease your health risks.
The impact of smoking on fertility
If you're planning on getting pregnant soon, it's important to know that smoking has been connected to a range of fertility issues, including an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy and damage to egg quality.
So while quitting smoking before pregnancy can remove risk factors for your baby, it can also help increase your chances of getting pregnant in the first place.
How smoking impacts a man's fertility
Women aren't the only ones who can benefit from quitting smoking before trying for a baby. Smoking also damages men's sperm movement, shape and count, and it's a risk factor for erectile dysfunction.
How long after quitting smoking does fertility improve?
The longer you go without smoking, the better. It takes about three months to produce both sperm and eggs, so that's how long it will take after quitting smoking before fertility fully improves, for both you and your partner.
How does secondhand smoke impact fertility and pregnancy?
No amount of cigarette smoke is safe. While secondhand smoke isn't the same as actively smoking, it still carries similar risks for fertility and pregnancy.
So if you live with someone who smokes, encourage them to smoke outside or in a different room where you're less likely to breathe in secondhand smoke while pregnant. Better still, encourage them to quit with you.
Tips to stop smoking before pregnancy or when you find out you’re pregnant
1. Find a program to help
Talk to your doctor about a program that can help you stop smoking. If you're already pregnant, they may recommend you try other ways to stop smoking before using nicotine replacements or medicines.
2. Clean house
Get rid of your cigarettes, ashtrays and lighters. Clean your house and clothes to get rid of the smoke smell.
Also, keep in mind that vaping before and during pregnancy should not be used as an alternative for smoking cigarettes. Using nicotine, in any form, while pregnant can affect your baby's brain and lungs during development. Cigarette alternatives also contain chemicals that can be harmful.
When should you stop smoking weed while pregnant?
Smoking marijuana while trying to conceive or while pregnant is not advised. Research shows that using marijuana may impact both male and female fertility.
In addition, marijuana smoke is chemically similar to tobacco smoke, and could cause health problems in babies. So while it may be tempting to try marijuana for morning sickness or other pregnancy-related discomforts, it's best to abstain.
3. Change your routine
Plan how you will handle your cravings during times when you tend to reach for a cigarette. For example, if you smoked in the car, start listening to audiobooks or podcasts to steal your attention. You could also try eating tart candies or chewing non-nicotine gum.
4. Crowd source
Quitting smoking doesn't have to be done alone. You can get support from a wide range of sources, whether they're friends who used to smoke, or counselors or support groups for people who smoke. People who use online, group or one-on-one counseling are much more likely to stop smoking.
5. Cut down if you can't completely quit
While it's best to completely quit smoking before pregnancy, if you're already pregnant or are facing unusually difficult obstacles to quitting, reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke each day can still make a difference.
6. Congratulate yourself
Quitting smoking is really hard. Pregnancy and early parenthood can be hard, too. You're tackling some big stuff, so remember to congratulate yourself for any successes, even if they seem small. And don't beat yourself up for messing up – take it one day at a time!
Don't lose steam after birth
A lot of women quit smoking in pregnancy only to start again after baby is born. A new baby, little sleep, plus recovery from birth have the potential to add up to a serious craving. Meditation is a great way to fight it off, but talk to your doctor or midwife if you're worried about postpartum depression.
If you're thinking about becoming pregnant and you smoke, now is a great time to stop. One of the resources that you can use is the Healthy Beginnings program through HealthPartners and Park Nicollet. The program provides education, referrals and support to help with addiction and other issues. Talk to your health care provider to learn more.