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Women who are planning to get pregnant have the benefit of preparing they can take folic acid, eat more healthily, get fit and quit smoking.

Up to half of all pregnancies happened by surprise, though. If you are a smoker when you find out that you are expecting a baby, quitting is the first thing on your to-do list. What are the effects of smoking on a developing fetus? And how do you quit? 

Unplanned pregnancy and smoking

Smoking is one of the most dangerous things a baby can be exposed to, even when you include medical conditions such as gestational diabetes. There are many reasons a woman planning a pregnancy and her partner should both stop smoking smoking cigarettes yourself and inhaling second-hand smoke have nearly the same effect. We will discuss the possible consequences of smoking for a fetus later on. Let's face it, everybody including smokers knows that a nicotine addiction can cause lung cancer and must have a negative effect on an unborn baby as well. If you suddenly find out that you are pregnant, and you weren't trying, you are probably really worried about the smoking and we really don't want to add to your feelings of guilt. The important thing is to stop as soon as possible after you find out you are dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. How? One woman who stopped smoking the second she found out she was pregnant shares her story:

Obviously, you're very motivated because you don't want any harm to come to your baby. The minute you realize you are pregnant, you stop. You should have done it before, but there you go. In my case, every time I wanted a cigarette I just had a glass of water instead. It sort of stopped the cravings I had, but it also felt like it had a cleansing effect. The first couple of days were a little hard. After a month, when someone offered me a cigarette I accidentally accepted but didn't light it. It was still in my hand, and the thought of harming my unborn child really helped me through it. It didn't help much that I had a partner who carried on smoking. Really encourage yours to stop, because it will be easier that way.

Tips to quit smoking

Some people, like the mom we quoted, find nicotine relatively easy to give up. Others have more difficulty, and every person in the process of stopping smoking (hopefully forever) will employ different tricks to get through it. Which ones will you use? Pick and choose from these tips:

  • Drink water every time you want to smoke.
  • Take up exercising. If you are pregnant and not already very fit, this should be relatively gentle think walking, swimming and yoga rather than running and heavy weight lifting.
  • Break old routines you associate with smoking, such as drinking coffee or beer also not good during pregnancy!
  • Know that it gets a little easier with every cigarette you don't light.
  • Remember, you are doing it for your baby!

How smoking affects a fetus

Now for the scary part. I will not write about what smoking does to you, the person who chose to smoke. You are already aware of that. It is probably necessary to spell out what smoking does to your fetus. In some countries doctors are, believe it or not, telling pregnant mothers that smoking will give them an easier birth. That idea comes from the fact that babies of smokers are smaller. Smoking, you see, deprives that growing baby of oxygen. Smoking will:

  • Impede your baby's development so she will be born smaller.
  • Double the likelihood that your baby will be born prematurely.
  • Double the risk that your baby will be stillborn.
  • Increase the risk that your baby will have breathing problems at birth and asthma later in life significantly.
  • Increase the risk of SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
  • Put your baby at risk of a heart defect.
  • Lead to a lower IQ for your baby.

The good news is that every cigarette you do not smoke is a victory. Quitting smoking in the third trimester is much better than not quitting at all, but quitting as soon as you find out, hopefully two weeks after conception, will give your baby the best chance you have to offer.

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