smoking and drinking while pregnant

Smoking and Drinking While Pregnant

This article will discuss two things that are definitely a NO-NO for an expectant moms- smoking and drinking while pregnant.

As a soon-to-be-mom the first best gift you can give your baby is a healthy start.

You will soon take a new journey , therefore, having a healthy start, both for you and for your baby is a top priority!

From day one you should eating the right food and get enough rest to take care of yourself. But remember, there is another equally important thing to keep in mind to achieve a healthy pregnancy- avoid smoking and drinking while pregnant.

How does smoking and drinking while pregnant affect your baby?

There’s no doubt that both smoking and drinking while pregnant has negative effects not only to the pregnant mother but also to the unborn baby.

Smoking causes health problems like cancer, heart and respiratory problems, high-blood pressure and other health issues to normal smokers. More so, if the smoker is a pregnant woman!

Alcohol drinking is no different from smoking. Pregnant women who still indulge themselves with alcoholic drinks or liquor may cause serious damage to the baby’s physical and mental health.

A pregnant women who smoke and drink does not only  endanger her health but her baby’s life  too.

Read on to know more details and  relevant information about the danger of smoking and drinking while pregnant.


How does smoking affect an unborn baby?

One cigarette carries thousands of chemicals, including harmful ones like cyanide, lead, nicotine, carbon monoxide and other cancer-causing compounds.

If you are a pregnant woman and still continue to smoke, these chemicals will flow into your bloodstream.

Since the mother’s blood is the only source of food and oxygen of the baby in the womb, all toxins from smoking directly goes into your unborn baby.  And your little one inside you is still defenseless against it.

Another effect  of smoking is it also narrows the blood vessels in the umbilical cord, reducing your baby’s oxygen supply. This may cause a negative effect on your baby’s brain development.

Here are the risks of smoking during pregnancy:

  • Premature delivery where baby is still underdeveloped
  • Risks of having miscarriage or stillbirth
  • Baby is born with birth defects and/or low birth weight
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • Baby is vulnerable to develop asthma or other lung problems
  • Delayed brain development

When should a pregnant woman quit smoking during pregnancy?

The best answer is IMMEDIATELY! Quitting cigarette or tobacco smoking is ideal before you get pregnant, as smoking can make it harder for you to get conceive.

However, if you are already carrying your baby , the earlier you quit smoking the better.

If you quit at the onset or at the first trimester of your pregnancy, there’s a bigger chance that your baby will be born full-term, full-size and healthy.

Those who quit smoking at the later part of pregnancy has less chance already.

At 14-16 weeks, a baby inside the womb should be gaining weight, but this may be the case if the mother does not kick this bad habit.

But remember, don’t lose hope as it’s never too late to quit!

Quitting at your second to third trimester of pregnancy will still give your baby a few weeks to gain weight as quickly as possible.

Can I smoke occasionally or switch to mild cigarettes while pregnant?

NO! A pregnant woman has no reason or excuses to smoke at all.

Smoking occasionally and switching to milder cigarettes can still cause harm to your baby. Actually, reduced smoking will still expose him/her to the toxins of cigarettes.

What should I do to quit smoking while pregnant?

Several methods can be done for you to quit smoking. You can actually do it by yourself, or use nicotine patches/gum/spray or even taking medications.

However, your pregnancy may limit your options.

The BEST  option for pregnant women like you is to quit on your own, without any medication or patches.

It is highly recommendable to do the “quitting cold turkey”. In this method you try self-discipline and commit to not smoking again.

Throwing your cigarettes and other paraphernalia for smoking; and staying away from people who smoke will help you cut the craving.

At first, you may feel lousy and bored, which you must overcome. Make yourself busy and focus your attention on other things like preparing for your childbirth.

How can you quit heavy smoking while pregnant?

A heavy smoker can consume more than 10 sticks/day, so abrupt change may not be that easy.

If you’re a heavy smoker and pregnant,  “quitting cold turkey” may cause you to suffer from nicotine withdrawal for two to three weeks.

You may experience a very powerful craving at first few days. The feeling of irritability, depression, anxiety, difficulty concentrating and restlessness may follow since you’re craving is not satisfied.

For heavy smokers, gradual quitting would be the good option. Slowly cut back the no. of cigarettes you smoke until the reach zero.

But for pregnant women like you, this must be done quickly! You should stop before the 14th week of your pregnancy so you’re baby can still have the time to recover and gain weight.

You may consider attending counselling sessions and joining support groups may also help in quitting smoking. Talk to your OB-Gyne and ask for resources that can help you on your journey.


The moment you got the think that you are pregnant, you must IMMEDIATELY STOP any form of alcohol intake!

It is a fact that alcohol consumption may cause short-term and long-term negative effects to the human body. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has this information about the alcohol content of each of common drinks that are usually consumed by people.

In the US, a standard drink contains 0.6 ounces (14.0 grams or 1.2 tablespoons) of pure alcohol. Generally, this amount of pure alcohol is found in

  • 12-ounces of beer (5% alcohol content).
  • 8-ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content).
  • 5-ounces of wine (12% alcohol content).
  • 1.5-ounces of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey).

It was also further explained how excessive drinking can be different from binge drinking.

Excessive drinking includes binge drinking, heavy drinking, and any drinking by pregnant women or people younger than age 21.

  • Binge drinking, the most common form of excessive drinking, is defined as consuming
    • For women, 4 or more drinks during a single occasion.
    • For men, 5 or more drinks during a single occasion.
  • Heavy drinking is defined as consuming
    • For women, 8 or more drinks per week.
    • For men, 15 or more drinks per week.

While an adult body can somehow cope with the negative effects, it is totally different for the fetus. The alcohol is more concentrated in the unborn baby, and it can prevent enough nutrition and oxygen from flowing into the fetus’s vital organs.

Why should I stop drinking alcohol while pregnant?

Maternal alcohol drinking during pregnancy can put your baby at risk of being born with FASD or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

FASD  refers to group of negative effects of alcohol drinking to the unborn baby while inside the womb. Babies born with FASD will suffer physical , mental and health problems, which can be a permanent and life-long damage.

Here are some FASD your baby may possibly have:

  • Brain and organ damage
  • Physical deformities
  • Slow growth and learning capabilities
  • Mental, vision and hearing disabilities

Signs of  FASD:

  • Abnormal facial features, such as “philtrum”, a smooth ridge between the nose and upper lip
  • Small head size
  • Shorter-than-average height
  • Low body weight
  • Poor coordination
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Difficulty with attention
  • Poor memory
  • Difficulty in school (especially with math)
  • Learning disabilities
  • Speech and language delays
  • Intellectual disability or low IQ
  • Poor reasoning and judgment skills
  • Sleep and sucking problems as a baby
  • Vision or hearing problems
  • Problems with the heart, kidneys, or bones

There is no lab test yet that an detect FASD while the baby is still inside the mother’s womb. Most often the symptoms are mistaken as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Doctors diagnose FASD by looking for the mentioned facial and physical features.

According to (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), there are different type of FASDS, depending on the symptoms.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

“FAS represents the most involved end of the FASD spectrum. Fetal death is the most extreme outcome from drinking alcohol during pregnancy. People with FAS might have abnormal facial features, growth problems, and central nervous system (CNS) problems. People with FAS can have problems with learning, memory, attention span, communication, vision, or hearing. They might have a mix of these problems. People with FAS often have a hard time in school and trouble getting along with others.”

Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND)

People with ARND might have intellectual disabilities and problems with behavior and learning. They might do poorly in school and have difficulties with math, memory, attention, judgment, and poor impulse control.

Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD)

People with ARBD might have problems with the heart, kidneys, or bones or with hearing. They might have a mix of these.

Neurobehavioral Disorder Associated with Prenatal Alcohol Exposure (ND-PAE)

“ND-PAE was first included as a recognized condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5 (DSM 5) of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in 2013. A child or youth with ND-PAE will have problems in three areas: (1) thinking and memory, where the child may have trouble planning or may forget material he or she has already learned, (2) behavior problems, such as severe tantrums, mood issues (for example, irritability), and difficulty shifting attention from one task to another, and (3) trouble with day-to-day living, which can include problems with bathing, dressing for the weather, and playing with other children. In addition, to be diagnosed with ND-PAE, the mother of the child must have consumed more than minimal levels of alcohol before the child’s birth, which APA defines as more than 13 alcoholic drinks per month of pregnancy (that is, any 30-day period of pregnancy) or more than 2 alcoholic drinks in one sitting.”

Is “occasional drinking” or “social drinking” safe while pregnant?

The answer is NO!

Your baby’s development takes place during the nine months of your pregnancy. The process happens continuously, so every minute is vital and critical.

Therefore,  there is NO safe time, NO safe type nor safe level of alcohol content for pregnant women.

Being alcohol-free while carrying your baby is the best way.  

Here is more information from , emphasizing that pregnant women are not allowed to have any form of “moderate drinking”.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines moderate drinking as up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. In addition, the Dietary Guidelines do not recommend that individuals who do not drink alcohol start drinking for any reason.

However, there are some people who should not drink any alcohol, including those who are:

  • Younger than age 21.
  • Pregnant or may be pregnant.
  • Driving, planning to drive, or participating in other activities requiring skill, coordination, and alertness.
  • Taking certain prescription or over-the-counter medications that can interact with alcohol.
  • Suffering from certain medical conditions.
  • Recovering from alcoholism or are unable to control the amount they drink

Drinking before pregnancy

Actually, it is ideal to stop drinking alcohol before getting pregnant. However, if you have consumed a small amount of alcohol before detection of your pregnancy is not likely to affect your baby.

However, you should stop alcohol intake upon suspecting you are pregnant. Start seeing an OB-GYNE for pre-natal check-ups.

What if the father of my child drinks alcohol?

There has been no proof yet that t fathers who drink alcohol may cause or contribute to FASD to their babies.

But again, it is best that the father also joins the healthy –living of the pregnant mother.

Do you need help in avoiding alcohol drinking?

If you need help to combat drinking alcohol, you may first reach out to family and friends for support. There are also various organizations offering further assistance for alcohol drinking.

However, if you feel you need professional hep , do not hesitate! Let your OB-GYNE know so he/she can recommend the best option for you.

What you should remember about smoking and drinking while pregnant

We hope that this article about smoking and drinking while pregnant has been very helpful. A woman’s pregnancy journey involves a lot of major changes physically, emotionally and mentally. It is a challenging phase for a woman indeed.

However,  you must always remember that the life inside your womb is a wonderful miracle that will soon be your bundle of joy.

So as you take your r baby steps to quit smoking and drinking while pregnant, always keep in mind that  – YOUR LITTLE ONE SHOULD BE YOUR ULTIMATE INSPIRATION TO QUIT!


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