Smoking in Pregnancy

Smoking in Pregnancy

Smoking in pregnancy is one of the largest avoidable causes of stillbirth and serious adverse pregnancy outcomes. Every puff of a cigarette has an immediate effect on your baby. Carbon monoxide from smoking replaces some of the oxygen in your blood, which then reduces the amount of oxygen going to the baby through the umbilical cord. Smoking also affects how the placenta is formed, reducing nutrients passed onto your baby.

Smoking in pregnancy is associated with many complications such as an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, preterm birth, low birth weight, and abnormalities in the baby such as a cleft pallet. Babies born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy or are exposed to second hand smoke are also at greater risk of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI), impaired or slow growth and development, and diseases later in life such as breathing problems, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

While quitting at any time in pregnancy gives your baby a better chance of health, quitting early on in pregnancy is best. Quitting within the first three month of pregnancy reduces the risk of complications such as preterm birth, low birth weight and decreases the risk of stillbirth.

Vaping in Pregnancy

Vapes are popular within Australia, especially amongst young people. Many people believe that vaping is less of a risk when compared to smoking cigarettes. While vaping does not have the same harmful carbon monoxide effects of smoking, it can still cause harm to yourself and your baby.

There is some evidence that vaping during pregnancy may affect your baby’s development in a similar way as tobacco.

  • Nicotine in vapes is still passed easily to your baby through the umbilical cord and placenta in the same way when using tobacco
  • The vapour that is breathed out when using vapes contain harmful chemicals and substances such as metals and formaldehyde which are harmful to your baby.
  • Using vapes in late pregnancy has been shown to increase the risk of your baby being born with a low birthweight. Low birth weight is linked with ongoing issues such as slower growth and development and increase risk of getting sick.
  • Babies born to mothers who vaped in pregnancy had slow development of motor function and decreased ability to calm down if upset when compared to babies whose mothers did not smoke or vape.
  • In some animal studies where mothers have been exposed to vaping, babies receive less oxygen and there were changes in the development of major organs which lead to heart and lung problems later in life.

While some people switch to vaping to help them quit smoking cigarettes, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is yet to approve vapes as a quit smoking tool. There is concern that vapes can vary in quality and product design, making it difficult to determine how much nicotine is delivered within each device. Many vaping devices can be modified to deliver higher and more harmful levels of nicotine, also producing more toxic chemicals which are inhaled in the vape cloud.

Your midwife, GP or obstetrician can help if you are thinking about quitting cigarettes or vaping.

The most common counselling service for pregnant women is Quitline, which is staffed by specially trained counsellors who will support you in trying to quit - not make you feel guilty.

Contact your local Quitline for free on 13 78 48 or visit

Preview image of the Safer Baby Bundle Smoking flyer


Page last updated on: 21 Mar 2023