Effects Of Nicotine During Pregnancy: Risks And Dangers

If you love to have a smoke every chance you get, are you going to be able to go cold turkey for 9 whole months of pregnancy? 

For some people, it just doesn’t seem feasible. But maybe it could be the push you need to get you to quit for good.

So, in the hopes that it will motivate you to quit, I’m going to share with you some of the risks associated with smoking and nicotine while you are pregnant.

And this article is also going to cover whether nicotine passes through the placenta, and it will differentiate between smoking tobacco and taking nicotine in other forms, such as vaping.

Please feel free to scroll ahead to any section that jumps out at you. Here goes. 

Can Nicotine Pass Through The Placenta?

I’m afraid that the harsh truth is that nicotine can and does pass through the placenta, and at high concentrations, too.

This is called in utero exposure.

And it’s not just the nicotine that comes through, either. So does carbon monoxide, and numerous other poisons from your cigarettes.

And with respect to e-cigs and vaping, a comparable amount of nicotine can come through to the baby from vaping, too.

What’s more, some of the flavorings used in e-cigarettes may be harmful to a developing baby. 

Moreover, nicotine stays in the system for longer in fetuses and newborns than it does with us adults.

Effects Of Nicotine During Pregnancy : Risks And Dangers


Studies have shown that women who smoke heavily early in their pregnancy are more than twice as likely to suffer a miscarriage in the first trimester than non-smokers.

What’s more, another study has shown that there’s a 1% increase in relative risk of miscarriage per cigarette smoked per day. 

Surprisingly, it has also been found that exposure to secondhand smoke during pregnancy can also increase the risk of miscarriage, and this risk comes in at a whopping 11%.

Ectopic Pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancy is basically when a fetus starts to grow in the mother outside the actual womb.

In such cases, the fetus starts to develop in the fallopian tube instead. And even though a fetus may last for several weeks this way, ultimately, it will not survive. 

One report has said that smoking is thought to increase the risk of an ectopic pregnancy by up to a whopping four times.

And it’s not just traditional cigarettes that pose this risk, since any inhalation of nicotine is thought to increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy.


Stillbirth is when the baby dies in the womb or very shortly after birth.It is thought that up to one third of such baby deaths are caused by smoking.

And one study goes to put the risk of stillbirth through smoking up to a whopping 47%. 

This is because smoking reduces fetal oxygenation due to both increased blood levels of carboxyhemoglobin and impaired oxygen unloading.

Premature Birth

Premature birth is when a baby is born before 37 full weeks of pregnancy.

Or, in other words, born 3 weeks or more too early. The problems inherent in premature birth are many fold…

Premature babies are more likely to have chronic health issues, and some of them may require intensive hospital care.

Examples include infections, severe asthma, and feeding problems.

Studies have found that smokers have a 40% higher risk of preterm birth compared to their non-smoking counterparts. 


SIDS stands for sudden infant death syndrome.

It used to be referred to as cot death, and it describes the unexpected or unexplained death of an apparently healthy baby. 

It tends to happen more with newborn babies up to 6 months of age, but it has also been known to happen to infants over 12 months of age.

It turns out that smoking is a huge risk factor for SIDS, with some studies showing that smoking even just a few cigarettes per day during pregnancy can increase the chance of SIDS by up to four times, while smoking more than 20 cigarettes a day or more can increase the chances by almost 9 times.

Baby Being Born With Abnormalities Or Birth Defects

Smoking has also been linked to an increased risk of a baby being born with abnormalities, or some kind of birth defect. 

Face defects typically include the likes of cleft lip or cleft palate, or both.

This is when a baby’s lip or mouth do not form properly during pregnancy, and it can take years and years of surgeries to put right.

What’s more, it typically leads to difficulties with both their feeding and their speech.

Studies have shown that active smoking (as opposed to passive smoking) is associated with a whopping 27% increased risk of cleft lip or palate.

Low Birth Weight

It is also known that one in every five babies born to mothers who smoke during pregnancy has low birth weight.

And even pregnant mothers who are exposed to secondhand smoke are also at a greater risk. 

And this risk does not appear to alleviate if you were to switch to e-cigs, with one study showing that those who smoke e-cigs are 33% more likely than those who don’t to give birth to a low birth weight baby.


Abruption is basically when the placenta comes away from the wall of the womb during pregnancy.

It tends to happen more during the last few months of the pregnancy and will cause a lot of bleeding. This can be fatal for both you and the baby. 

Cigarette use is associated with a two and a half fold increased risk in severe abruption resulting in the death of the baby. 


Those who smoke are also less likely to be able to get pregnant in the first place, due to the effects of smoking on their fertility.

Reduced Oxygen To The Fetus

There is also cause to believe that any nicotine in the bloodstream of a pregnant woman may constrict blood vessels in both the uterus and the umbilical cord, which could result in a decreased amount of oxygen being delivered to the unborn child.

And sadly, this has implications for both the baby’s respiratory system and their cardiovascular system.


PPROM stands for preterm premature rupture of membranes. It’s basically a condition whereby the amniotic sac breaks.

This makes both you and your baby more vulnerable to getting infections, and it also increases the likelihood of the baby being born prematurely.

A study has shown that those who smoke heavily during pregnancy increase their risk of PPROM during the first few months of pregnancy.

Placenta Previa

Placenta Previa is basically a condition in which the placenta is too close to the cervix, and more often than not, it means that the baby has to be born by cesarean section.

Smoking while pregnant increases the risk of placenta previa.

Final Thoughts

One quick scan through of all the different conditions that can be caused, and just how much more likely they are if you smoke, should be more than enough to convince you that both you and the baby will be much better off if you were to quit smoking altogether. 

So, our advice? Quit for you, quit for your baby, and quit for good!

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