Smoking in pregnancy

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Smoking while pregnant puts both mother and baby at risk of significant harm to their health. Every time a mother smokes a cigarette, she inhales carbon monoxide (CO) which reduces the amount of oxygen to the placenta and causes harm to the baby1.

Smoking causes both short-term and long-term problems, from premature delivery to increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth or sudden infant death2:

Short And Long Term Pregnancy Problems June 2017

The stats

Although women are more likely to attempt to quit smoking when pregnant3, in 2010 16% of Welsh pregnant women who smoke continued to do so throughout their pregnancy4.11,864 unborn babies in Wales are exposed to harm from tobacco each year.

Pregnancy Table Redone2016

In 2017 the Public Health Wales Observatory published new pregnancy surveillance indicators presenting data for births in the period April 1st 2015 – March 31st 2016. 

Pregnancy Table 2017 June
% of women who smoke during pregnancy by Health Board

Second-hand smoke exposure: ante and post natal

Some women may be exposed to second-hand smoke via a friend or a family member. This can cause significant health risks once a child is born including respiratory problems such as asthma, birth defects such as cleft lip and hearing problems such as glue ear.

Second-hand smoke in an enclosed environment such as the home or a car is particularly damaging to younger children who cannot escape from the smoky environment.

Choose Smokefree

Stop smoking support for pregnant women

Our public-facing cessation project Choose Smokefree has a section with lots of support and information for mums-to-be as part of our Smokefree Baby & Me campaign.

The Models of Access to Maternal Smoking cessation Support (MAMSS) project, which was conducted in Wales, aimed to evaluate how well smoking cessation programs were being delivered to pregnant women. The scheme aimed to increase the proportion of pregnant women who engage with stop smoking services5.

Additional Information


1Carbon monoxide, smoking and your baby

2NHS - Pregnancy and your baby

3Smoking cessation during pregnancy – A clinician’s guide to help pregnant women quit smoking. American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. 2011

4Tobacco and Health in Wales – Public Health Wales NHS Trust / Welsh Government. June 2012

5MAMSS: Models for Access to Maternal Smoking cessation Support