Passive smoking in pregnancy

Even if you don't smoke or have managed to give up, while you are pregnant you should avoid others people's smoke, too

You might already be aware of the benefits of giving up smoking when you are trying for a baby and when you are pregnant. The risk of miscarriage during pregnancy can be increased, smoking affects the growth in the womb and the long-term health of the child, and it has also been linked to increased risk of cot death.


As a result, more and more women turn to help or make the choice independently to stop smoking ahead of pregnancy or when they find out they are expecting. But what about others smoking around you?

Passive smoking and pregnancy safety

Scientists have long known about the dangers of passive smoking. Non-smokers can suffer from diseases like lung cancer and have even been known to die from it without ever having smoked a cigarette in their lives. If it’s going into your system, it’s affecting your baby’s too.

A Chinese-American study published in 2004, which looked at the pregnancy progress of over 500 women who did not smoke or drink themselves, examined the fortunes of each pregnancy noting where they lived with a non-smoker, a smoker or a heavy smoker. There was a distinct increased incidence of miscarriage in women who lived with a smoker and that risk was significantly further increased where the woman lived with someone who smoked over 20 cigarettes a day.
Even if the baby survives pregnancy, an increased risk of cot death can be affected by another person in the household smoking, and there is a higher chance of long-term repsiratory problems for the baby, child and into his or her adult life.

What can you do to avoid passive smoking?

Whether you smoked before pregnancy or not, your partner giving up completely is a wonderful act of support during your pregnancy. However, if this is not possible, it is important for your partner to smoke outside the home (not just in another room).

Following the Health Act of 2006, it has been illegal for anyone to smoke in an enclosed public space or workplace since summer 2007. If you experience other people’s smoke in the course of your daily working life, this is illegal and you should discuss this with your employer. You do not have to tell your employer that you are pregnant in order for them to take your complaint seriously, the main reason for banning such smoking is to protect ALL staff from the effects of smoke, and that includes you!

These days it is easier to avoid cigarette smoke because it is socially less acceptable, but it is important that your friends understand that you should not be exposed to smoke.

If you are fleetingly exposed to it you do not have to worry (waiting at a bus stop next to a smoker, for example), though you may find this more unpleasant during pregnancy anyway, and need to take yourself away from the smell.

There is more support than ever before to help you (or your partner or other people you live with) give up smoking at least until after your baby is born. (Though really, even into parenthood you and others should avoid smoking anywhere near your baby.) A good place to start in terms of support to quit is the NHS website.

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