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Smoking and Drinking during Pregnancy

Taking care of yourself and your developing baby during pregnancy is incredibly important and one of the best ways is by choosing a healthy lifestyle.  This may mean you need to make a few changes to your daily habits so that you are eating well, keeping physically active, and not smoking or drinking alcohol.

Reasons to stop smoking

Giving up smoking during pregnancy is thought to be one of the best things you can do for the health of you and your baby – both before and after your baby’s birth. 

Cigarette (tobacco) smoke contains a mixture of up to 5000 different chemicals many of which are known to be toxic or cause cancer.  Once these chemicals are in your bloodstream they may affect almost any part of your body including your developing baby. Even passive smoking (breathing in someone else’s smoke) can be a problem.

When you smoke during pregnancy:

  • Your baby gets less oxygen, which may affect their growth
  • Babies are more likely to be born underweight
  • You’re more at risk of a premature birth or miscarriage
  • Babies are more at risk of developing infections or breathing difficulties, and other long-term health problems
  • The risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) increases.

Breaking the habit

Giving up smoking can have huge benefits for you and your baby no matter what the stage of your pregnancy.

Here are some positive reasons to help you put the cigarettes behind you:

  • Quitting means you can immediately improve your health and wellbeing
  • You may feel better about yourself and know that you’re improving the health of your baby and the people around you
  • Even reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke or quitting by the fourth month of pregnancy can help reduce some of the smoking health risks
  • Smoking is expensive – so quitting can save you money
  • Support is important – talk to your family and friends and let them know you are quitting, if your partner smokes consider asking them to give up too.

Most women want to stop smoking when they become pregnant but quitting by yourself can be hard.  Talk to your doctor or midwife about the different ways available to help you quit smoking or phone the QUITLINE on 13 78 48 (13 QUIT).

Why give up alcohol?

Not drinking alcohol when you are pregnant is recommended as the safest option for your baby. The alcohol in your bloodstream can pass through the placenta and into your developing baby – which means they are ‘drinking’ about the same amount of alcohol as you are.

When you drink alcohol during pregnancy: 

  • Your baby’s growth can be affected and they may be underweight at birth
  • The risks of having a premature birth or miscarriage increases
  • Your baby is at risk of developing foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) – which is a group of conditions that include physical, mental, behavioural and learning problems.

Sometimes you may have drunk alcohol before you knew you were pregnant – a low level of drinking is likely to only pose a low risk, but once you know you are pregnant it’s best to stop drinking altogether.

Finding help

Sometimes it can be hard to avoid alcohol particularly at social gathering or if you are used to drinking at home and you may feel pressure to join in:

  • Try and find a non-alcoholic drink you enjoy
  • Don’t be afraid to say ‘I’m not drinking’
  • Find something else that helps you relax like taking a walk or a bath.

If you are having problems stopping or want more advice on alcohol and pregnancy talk to your doctor or midwife.

There are also some foods that should be avoided during pregnancy for information read, Pregnancy Nutrition – Foods to Avoid.

Always talk to your midwife or doctor about any problems you may be concerned about.


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