HomePregnancyPassive Smoking And Its Effects On Pregnancy

Passive Smoking And Its Effects On Pregnancy


Medically Reviewed By

Smoking is injurious not just to the smoker’s health but also to everyone else around the person. When a woman becomes pregnant, she is advised to quit smoking; however, research has shown that merely quitting is insufficient to remove the dangers linked with cigarette exposure. Many women experience passive smoke exposure due to secondhand smoke through friends, family, or the residue left behind by cigarettes. During pregnancy, passive smoking can harm your and your unborn child’s health. 

Passive smoking is the inhalation of tobacco smoke, called secondhand smoke, or environmental smoke, by a person other than the intended active smoker.  

Let’s explore what passive smoking is, the adverse effects of passive smoking on pregnancy, and the effects it has on the mother and unborn child.

Effects Of Smoking On Your Body 

Tobacco leaves are used to make cigars and cigarettes. Nicotine is a substance found in tobacco. Nicotine is the substance that causes smoking addiction.

There are more than 7,000 compounds in cigarette smoke. Of them, at least 250 are dangerous to both smokers and nonsmokers. At least 69 of them are cancerous. Even a small amount of tobacco smoke inhaled can be dangerous.

Almost all of the body’s organs are damaged by smoking. Furthermore, smoking tobacco effects both male and female reproduction. Despite warnings on all tobacco products that smoking is injurious to health, people continue to smoke without fully grasping the magnitude of the effects of smoking on our bodies. Potential health issues with smoking and its effect may result in: 

  • Addiction
  • Heart disease and lung disease
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer of the kidneys, bladder, mouth, and other organs. It also results in blood cancer (also called leukemia).
  • Stroke. This occurs when a blood clot obstructs a blood artery supplying the brain with blood or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts open.

Smoking In Pregnancy 

If your health isn’t enough to convince you to stop smoking, your unborn child’s health definitely should. Human reproduction is impacted at all stages by smoke exposure and tobacco effects.

 Smoking during pregnancy impacts your health and that of your unborn child before, during, and after delivery.

Smoking increases a woman’s risk of never becoming pregnant and makes getting pregnant more difficult.

The best time for you to stop smoking is during pregnancy. Even if you are already pregnant, giving up smoking can have a significant impact on the health of your unborn child.

Effects of smoking during pregnancy 

Here are some of the harmful effects of smoking during pregnancy:

  1. Preterm Labour –  This type of premature labor begins before the 37th week of pregnancy. Premature birth can result from preterm labor. Compared to kids delivered on time, preterm newborns are more prone to experience health issues both at delivery and later in life.
  2. Ectopic pregnancy – This occurs when a fertilized egg grows and implants outside of the uterus (womb). Ectopic pregnancy invariably results in pregnancy loss. It may result in dangerous, severe issues for a pregnant mother. Ectopic pregnancies are often terminated surgically.
  3. Vaginal Bleeding – Vaginal bleeding causes severe cramps (abdominal pain) and pelvic pain.
  4. Placental Issues – such as placental abruption and placenta previa. A dangerous disorder called placental abruption occurs when the placenta separates from the uterine wall before delivery. Placenta previa is a condition in which the placenta covers all or a portion of the cervix and hangs very low in the uterus.
  5. Miscarriage: Miscarriage occurs during the first trimester of pregnancy due to chromosomal alterations triggered by increased exposure to smoking. Carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke can keep the developing baby from getting enough oxygen, leading to a miscarriage.

Effects of Smoking On Your Baby

Smoking causes a number of serious complications during delivery, including the following:

Infants with low birth weight: Those newborn infants with a body weight of less than 2,500 grams are referred to as this (5 pounds, 8 ounces). Babies born to smokers are often underweight at birth.

Abnormalities/birth defects: Several abnormalities that may be found in the infant’s organs have a significant influence on the infant’s growth. These birth disorders include breathing and respiratory issues, feeding problems, thinking and speaking challenges, cerebral palsy, vision and hearing impairment, ear infections, and stunted growth.

Stillbirth: Infants who are born dead or who will pass away soon after delivery are more likely to experience stillbirth. In one out of every three instances, smoking is the key factor contributing to the chance of this problem.

The more cigarettes a pregnant woman smokes per day, the greater her baby’s chances are of developing these and other health problems. There is no “safe” level of smoking while pregnant.

Passive Smoking 

Passive smoking (secondhand smoking) means breathing in other people’s tobacco smoke. Passive smoking is especially harmful to children as they have less well-developed airways, lungs, and immune systems.

It’s not simply uncomfortable for your friends and family when they inhale your secondhand smoke; this is what we refer to as passive smoking. It is also harmful to their health.

Most of the smoke from cigarettes (or cigars, pipes, or roll-ups) enters the air around you instead of your lungs, where it can be inhaled by anyone.

There are two types of second-hand smoke. They are:

  1. Mainstream smoke – smoke that is breathed out by someone who smokes  
  2. Side-stream smoke – smoke that comes from the lit end of a tobacco product

Passive smoking is characterized as ‘not actively’ taking in the smoke released into the environment whenever someone who is smoking exhales. Most secondhand smoke is invisible and odorless, so no matter how careful you think you’re being, people around you still get passive smoke exposure and breathe in the harmful poisons.

Nearly 4,000 chemicals have been identified as being associated with cancer and are found in secondhand smoking. You risk endangering both you and the unborn child if you are exposed to secondhand smoking while pregnant.

According to the Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Ageing, W.H.O., before and after birth, exposure to secondhand smoking has an impact on a child’s survival, health, and development. It harms a child’s health considerably and may encourage them to consume tobacco in the future, increasing their chance of major health problems all their lives. 

Every year, passive smoke exposure kills around 1.2 million people, and 65,000 of these preventable and premature deaths are children and adolescents under 15 years. Children with caregivers who smoke are almost 70% more likely to try smoking by age 15.

Effects Of Passive Smoking On Pregnancy

According to the American Lung Association, new research studies have shown that if a woman is around passive smoke during pregnancy, there are increased risks. A baby who weighs very little and might have health issues is more likely to be delivered to you.

Mothers become more prone to infections, bleeding, and mental issues during pregnancy due to passive smoking. Later in life, they can be at higher risk for certain cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and lung problems.

Passive smoking effects before birth seem even more harmful than after birth. Miscarriage, low birth weight, a reduction in head circumference at birth, decreased lung function,  early birth, and learning or behavioral deficits in your child are some of the passive smoking effects.

The Effects of passive smoking on pregnancy also include hypertension, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes mellitus, which are just a few of the chronic conditions that are more likely to emerge as adults if a baby’s birth weight is lower than average.

Additionally, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is one of the major health issues connected to passive smoke exposure. An infant that suffers from SIDS passes away suddenly while they are asleep. Due to the lack of a clear cause of death determined by autopsies and other medical tests and the fact that children appear healthy before passing away, this illness is rather mysterious.

Secondhand smoke also is dangerous to your baby after birth. Babies exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely also at risk for health problems such as:

  1. Asthma: This is a medical disorder that can make it difficult to breathe since it affects the body’s airways.
  2. Bronchitis: This is irritation in the bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from your baby’s lungs. It appears as redness, swelling, and inflammation. Coughing and breathing difficulties may result from it.
  3. Middle ear infection: This happens due to trapped bacteria and viruses behind eardrums. It causes pus to fill, which pushes the eardrum and is very painful.
  4. Pneumonia: This is a lung infection. Which can lead to respiratory problems. 

How To Control Passive Smoking

There is a need for counseling and education to raise public awareness of the dangers of passive smoking to pregnant women and their unborn children. Discussions should include the mother, spouse or partner, family members, and carers.

Do not allow anyone to smoke in your home or car, even if the windows are open, because the smoke stays in the air and collects on furniture, clothes, and carpets, eventually being breathed as thirdhand smoke.

You should make use of your right to request that smokers leave. Choose smoke-free establishments when you travel, including restaurants, hotels, and sometimes even rental cars.

Several studies demonstrate the negative consequences of passive smoking during pregnancy. Our society must prioritize mothers’ health and the health of the following generations.


  • How Can I Quit Smoking Before or During Pregnancy?

There are many smoking cessation programs available to help you quit smoking. Ask your doctor for more information about these programs.

Here are some tips that may help you kick the habit:

  • Declare your home as a no-smoking area.
  • Hide your matches, lighters, and ashtrays.
  • Ask people who smoke not to smoke around you.
  • Stay active to keep your mind off smoking and help relieve tension.
  • Take a walk, exercise, read a book, or try a new hobby.
  • Can I Use a Nicotine Replacement During Pregnancy?

When a smoker is trying to quit, nicotine is released into their circulation through nicotine gum and patches. Although these medications can help smokers attempting to stop cravings and withdrawal symptoms, their safety in pregnant women has not been well studied. The potential advantages of quitting smoking outweigh any potential risks associated with nicotine replacement therapy and smoking, increasing the probability that you must try to quit.

  • Is it safe to use e-cigarettes during pregnancy?

No. E-cigarettes contain chemicals, like nicotine, that can harm you and your baby. Flavors and other chemicals in e-cigarettes may be harmful to you and your baby. Breathing in someone else’s e-cigarette vapor also may be harmful. More research is needed to better understand how e-cigarettes affect women and babies during pregnancy.   Talk to your healthcare provider about quitting If you’re pregnant and using e-cigarettes.

  • What is Third-Hand smoke?

When someone smokes, thirdhand smoke is what is left behind. It’s the scent of items that have been in or near smoke, such as clothing, furniture, carpet, walls, skin, and hair. These items absorb third-hand smoke, which hardens with time and adheres to them. Opening a window or smoking in another room won’t be adequate to shield people from third-hand smoke. More than 250 compounds are found in third-hand smoke, which is also dangerous for young children, pregnant women, and infants. Inhaling thirdhand smoke, touching, or putting items in their mouths that have been exposed to thirdhand smoke can expose babies and kids to these toxins.


Reducing the quantity of secondhand smoke in your house is advisable if you or your spouse are trying to conceive, are pregnant, or have just given birth. If you’re attempting to get pregnant, you should quit smoking. As you progress through your pregnancy, you’ll feel better and have more energy.

Rid your house, surroundings, and workplace of passive smoke exposure. Make sure your spouse smokes outside and encourage them to wear a coat or sweater when smoking and take it off before entering the house. 

Srujana Mohanty
She is the Managing Editor of Cogito137, one of India’s leading student-run science communication magazines. She's been working in scientific and medical writing and editing since 2018, also associated with the quality assurance team of scientific journal editing. Majored in Chemistry with a minor in Biology at IISER Kolkata, Srujana loves doodling and watching series.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Exclusive content

Latest article

More article