Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Smoking and pregnancy

4-minute read

If you stop smoking while pregnant, it will help give your baby the best start in life and will make you healthier.

It's never too late to stop smoking as the health benefits of quitting begin within hours of your last smoke. It’s best to quit early on in pregnancy, but quitting at any time gives your baby a better chance of a healthy start in life.

It's not just mothers-to-be, but their partners who should quit smoking. Passive (secondhand) smoking can also harm mother and baby, so a smoke-free household means a healthier family. It can be challenging, but with some support you can reach your goals.

Smoking and fertility

For both women and men, quitting smoking increases your fertility.

Women who smoke can have:

  • difficulty in conceiving
  • early onset of menopause
  • higher risk of cervical and vulvar cancer

Men who smoke may have:

  • trouble getting and maintaining an erection
  • lower sperm count
  • damage to DNA in sperm causing health problems in your baby

How smoking affects your baby

Smoking during pregnancy exposes your baby to harmful chemicals. Every time you smoke, the baby effectively smokes too, as harmful nicotine and other chemicals pass through the placenta and into the fetus. Smoking also reduces blood flow for your baby.

Smoking while pregnant can result in a far higher risk of:

After your baby is born, there are still health and developmental risks if you or other household members smoke. These include:

Smoking and breastfeeding

When you smoke, nicotine and other harmful chemicals are passed on to your baby through breast milk. Even if you continue smoking, breastfeeding is still best for your baby.

Passive smoking

Other people's smoke can harm both mother and baby. If it's not possible for all family members to quit, at least commit to a smoke-free household. People who smoke should do so outside.

In all states and territories, it's illegal to smoke in a vehicle while a child is present. There are also smoking bans in public spaces.

Support to give up smoking

Totally quitting smoking is the best goal, but you might find it easier to cut down on your smoking to begin with.

There are many different quitting methods and you might need to try a few. Every attempt to give up cigarettes is a step towards becoming an ex-smoker. Talking to a health practitioner is a good starting point, as is contacting Quitline.

Methods that work include:

  • going cold turkey - simply stopping works for many people
  • using Quitline resources
  • mobile apps, such as Quit for you - Quit for two
  • support from family and friends
  • prescription medication (not recommended for pregnant women)
  • nicotine replacement therapies

Medications that help to manage withdrawal symptoms – such as Champix (varenicline) or Zyban (bupropion) – are not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) can help. They are readily available from pharmacies and some supermarkets, and come in two categories:

  • steady response products, such as nicotine patches
  • quick response products, such as chewing gum, lozenges, tablets and inhalers

Using NRT products is safer than smoking, but it is important to discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor or pharmacist and follow their advice. The better NRT options for pregnant women are lozenges, mouth spray, gum or Inhalator, which usually provide a lower daily dose of nicotine than the patch. However, if you have nausea or sickness, you may prefer the patch. You can use the daytime patch to help you quit, and you must remove it before going to bed. Do not use the 24-hour nicotine patch.

While some smokers have found vaping or e-cigarettes to be useful aids in giving up tobacco and tar, the long-term health effects are still unknown. Due to their ingredients, even non-nicotine e-cigarettes may be harmful to your baby. Vaping or using e-cigarettes are not recommended.

It might take you a few goes to quit. It does for most people. But it's worth it to keep trying.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: May 2020


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Smoking, pregnancy and breastfeeding - NT.GOV.AU

Smoking during pregnancy, passive smoking and why you should quit smoking.

Read more on NT Health website

Smoking and pregnancy

Find out how quitting smoking will improve your health and give your baby the best start in life.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Smoking and tobacco and pregnancy | Australian Government Department of Health

If you’re pregnant, the safest option is to not smoke at all. The chemicals in tobacco smoke affect an unborn baby's development and may have lifelong effects. Find out what the risks are and who you can contact for help and support.

Read more on Department of Health website

Asthma and smoking - myDr.com.au

Smoking and asthma do not combine well. Tobacco smoke harms the airways of both smokers and those exposed to environmental tobacco smoke.

Read more on myDr website

Effects of caffeine, alcohol and smoking on reproductive outcomes

Some lifestyle behaviours are known to affect fertility, pregnancy health and the health of the baby at birth and in adulthood. Here is what you need to know about how caffeine, alcohol and smoking affect fertility and reproductive outcomes.

Read more on Your Fertility website

Pregnancy - Pregnancy Topics - Smoking during pregnancy

It is best not to smoke during pregnancy

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

How to quit when you're pregnant

Tips on quitting when your pregnant, from first trimester to post delivery.

Read more on Quit Victoria website

Good fertility health

Your age and your health can affect your chances of falling pregnant. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle may help you improve your fertility.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Update on medicines for smoking cessation | Issue 4 | Volume 38 | Australian Prescriber

Persistent cigarette smokers usually have a nicotine addiction. This addiction has a chronic relapsing and sometimes remitting course and may persist...

Read more on Australian Prescriber website

Pregnancy - Pregnancy Topics - Smoking before pregnancy

During the months before you become pregnant, there are some important things that you can do to improve your chances of becoming pregnant and set the scene for a healthier pregnancy and healthier baby

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo