Pregnancy and smoking, vaping and tobacco

If you’re pregnant, the safest option is to not smoke or vape at all. The chemicals in tobacco smoke and e-cigarette vapour 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 to quit.

What you need to know

Smoking or vaping during pregnancy can harm both you and your baby. Cigarette smoke and vapour from e-cigarettes, also known as vapes, contain toxic chemicals like nicotine. These can cause complications during your pregnancy and affect your baby’s development.

The best way to protect your baby and yourself is to quit smoking and vaping. You can do this before or during your pregnancy, or even after the baby is born. Both you and your baby will benefit straight away from quitting smoking. Quitting vaping – including if you have used vaping to help quit smoking – will protect you and your baby from harmful chemicals.

Smoking or vaping can affect trying to fall pregnant

Smoking can affect the reproductive system so that:

  • it is harder to fall pregnant
  • infertility treatments are less effective
  • in vitro fertilisation (IVF) is less successful.

If you quit smoking you are more likely to conceive naturally and without delay.

More research is needed on the effects of vaping on reproductive health and fertility. We do know that many of the chemicals found in e-cigarettes have a negative impact on reproductive health for both women and men. Informative studies have raised concerns about reduction in fertility as a result of exposure to e-cigarette vapour and liquids. It is best to quit vaping if you’re trying to fall pregnant.

There is no safe amount to smoke or vape

There is no safe amount of smoking. Every cigarette is doing you damage by releasing chemicals that will harm the development of your baby.

Scientists are still learning about all the risks of e-cigarettes, and don’t recommend any amount of vaping to be safe during pregnancy.

Try to cut down, or quit completely, if you're trying to fall pregnant or are already pregnant. If you’re using e-cigarettes to help you quit smoking, try to quit vaping too as soon as you can.

The risks of smoking or vaping while pregnant

There are risks for both you and your baby if you smoke or vape while pregnant.

Nicotine is found in tobacco smoke and in most e-cigarettes, even if it is not on the label. It can cause pregnancy complications and damage your unborn baby. Other chemicals found in tobacco and e-cigarettes can also harm your baby while you’re pregnant.

Risks to you and your baby include:

  • miscarriage – losing your baby in early pregnancy
  • stillbirth – losing your baby in late pregnancy
  • ectopic pregnancy – where the embryo implants outside the uterus
  • problems with the placenta – such as covering the cervix (placenta previa) or separating too early from the uterus (placental abruption)
  • pre-eclampsia – you develop high blood pressure and swelling – which can be fatal
  • dying from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • being born too early – not fully developed
  • being born underweight – at higher risk of delayed development and/or disease
  • having birth defects such as a cleft lip or cleft palate
  • being harder to settle and having feeding problems
  • having middle ear infections or permanent hearing impairment
  • long term damage to the lungs, brain and blood – for example, your baby may develop asthma or suffer from pneumonia.

A baby exposed to tobacco smoke in the womb and through second-hand smoke as an infant is more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and be obese as an adult. This risk is increased even if they are non-smokers throughout their lives.

The long-term effects of exposing babies to vaping during pregnancy or after birth are not yet fully known. They may include serious health problems such as organ damage (comparable to those caused from nicotine in tobacco products).

If your partner smokes or vapes

If you don’t smoke or vape, but your partner does, there is still a risk to your unborn baby. Breathing in second-hand smoke, also known as passive smoking, presents risks, as if you were smoking yourself.

Inhaling other people’s vapour from e-cigarettes while you’re pregnant means you can breathe in nicotine and other toxic chemicals that pass directly to your baby.

Encourage them to quit smoking or vaping to protect your baby from harm, as well as their own individual health benefits.

Smoking or vaping after having a baby

It's best to not resume smoking or vaping after your baby is born – staying smoke- and vape-free protects both yours, and your baby's health.

If you do smoke or vape, you can protect your baby by:

  • not smoking or vaping around them
  • making your house and car smoke- and vape-free
  • only taking them to places that do not allow smoking and vaping.

Read more about the effects of passive smoking and vaping on children.

Smoking or vaping while breastfeeding

If you smoke or vape while breastfeeding you risk:

  • lowering your supply of breast milk
  • exposing your baby to nicotine and other harmful chemicals through your breast milk
  • affecting your baby's development
  • burning your baby with hot ash from cigarettes, or from exploding or overheating e-cigarettes.

If you do smoke or vape while breastfeeding, it is better to wait until after you have fed your baby rather than before or during a feed. This will minimise your baby's exposure to nicotine and other chemicals in tobacco smoke and e-cigarette vapour.

Help and support to quit

Just as you need help and support during and after your pregnancy, you need help and support to quit smoking and vaping.

Here are some suggestions:

  • tell your friends and family you're trying to quit
  • ask them to be patient with you when you're dealing with withdrawal symptoms
  • if they smoke or vape, tell them not to when they are around you or your baby.

Some quitting methods may not be suitable while you're pregnant. Ask your health professional for advice on what is best for you and your baby or call the Quitline.

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