giving up smoking

Giving up smoking when pregnant

Giving up smoking is challenging, but not impossible and now that you’re pregnant, quitting has never been more important.

Giving up smoking when pregnant

Quitting cigarettes is tough, but the more you know about your options and the benefits of stopping smoking, the easier the process will be. We’ve all heard the statistic that one in every two smokers will die of a tobacco-related disease. Did you know that within 20 minutes of quitting smoking, your circulation will improve and your heart rate and blood pressure will get lower? This reduces your risk of heart disease straight away. Within eight hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood will drop and the oxygen level will go up. However, your pregnancy can also be a strong motivation to give up smoking, because you’re making this choice on behalf of your unborn child who is completely dependent on you.

Why is it harmful to smoke during pregnancy?

A baby in the womb gets everything from its mother. Nutrients and oxygen come via the placenta and umbilical cord. Smoking not only exposes the fetus to toxins in tobacco smoke, but it also damages placental function. When a person smokes, some of the oxygen in their blood is replaced by carbon monoxide. If a pregnant woman smokes, her blood and therefore her child’s blood will contain less oxygen than normal. This can cause the fetal heart rate to rise as the baby  struggles to get enough oxygen. The particles in tobacco smoke contain different toxic substances that change the blood’s ability to work in a healthy and normal manner. This can affect the placenta that feeds the baby.

Smoking increases your risk of having:

  • bleeding
  • a miscarriage
  • a premature labour
  • a baby with a low birth weight
  • a baby who is stillborn

Isn’t it too late if I’m already pregnant?

Giving up smoking at any stage in your pregnancy is good for you and your baby – it’s never too late. As soon as you stop, the chemicals will start to clear from your body and your baby will get more oxygen. So give yourself and your baby a head start by giving up for good. Even if you haven’t managed to stop smoking in the past, you can do it this time. Up to 40% of all pregnant women who smoke have successfully quit.

Should I tell my midwife?

Tell your midwife or doctor if you’re still a smoker at your next appointment. Honesty is the best policy for you and your baby. Your midwife or doctor are there to help you, not judge you. You certainly won’t be the first mum-to-be they’ve seen who’s struggling to quit. Whatever your approach to stopping smoking is, your midwife or GP can help you. They will have information about local support programmes, as well as words of encouragement for you.

Quitting support

Visit There is a lot of information there, and an online quit plan that you can sign up to. It will assess your smoking habits, give advice on how to quit, and send you emails and tips to get you through the first few weeks.

You can also sign up for a QUIT smoking course with a HSE QUIT clinic.

Smoke-free zones

The following hospitals – NMH, The Rotunda, The Coombe, Cork University Maternity Hospital and The Midland Regional Hospital at Portlaoise are tobacco-free hospitals. This means that nobody is permitted to smoke anywhere on these campuses including E cigarettes.

Benefits of quitting smoking

  • Straight away: You will have fresher breath, hair and clothes – smoking is smelly. You will have more money in your pocket.
  • Within 20 mins: Your blood pressure and pulse rates begin to return to normal.
  • Within 1 day: Your risk of heart attack begins to fall.
  • Within 2 days: You will have a better sense of taste and smell.
  • Within 3 days: You will feel fitter as you will be less breathless.
  • After 1 year: Your risk of sudden death from a heart attack is almost cut in half. Your risk from cancer is also reduced.

If you would like to stop smoking contact your GP or the National Smokers’ Quitline 1850 201 203.

More like this:

Your intimate health
How to be gluten free
10 easy weight-loss tips

Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.



Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….