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Smoking and alcohol during pregnancy

If you are pregnant, or planning to be, now is the time to stop smoking and drinking alcohol.

By giving up, you are protecting your baby and reducing the risks to their development and future health. It is also one of the best things you can do for your health.

How does smoking affect my baby?

It's hard to imagine when you cannot see your baby, but everything you breathe in passes through to your baby (including secondhand smoke). Each cigarette contains more than 4,000 chemicals.

When you smoke, carbon monoxide and other harmful toxins travel from your lungs into your bloodstream, through your placenta and into your baby's body.

When this happens, your baby struggles for oxygen. When your baby cannot get enough oxygen, this affects their development.

Download the free NHS Quit Smoking app

Use the NHS Quit Smoking app to help you quit smoking and start breathing easier.

The app allows you to:

  • track your progress
  • see how much you're saving
  • get daily support

If you can make it to 28 days smoke-free, you're 5 times more likely to quit for good!

How does alcohol affect my baby?

Alcohol passes from your blood into the baby's placenta.

Your baby cannot process alcohol like you can, and too much can be extremely harmful to their development.

Drinking alcohol, especially in the first 3 months of pregnancy, increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and low birth weight.

Foetal alcohol spectrum disorder

Drinking during pregnancy can also cause a serious condition called foetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

When the baby cannot process the amount of alcohol being consumed, it can affect their development in the womb, including their brain, spinal cord and other parts of the body. This can result in miscarriage.

If the baby survives, they may be left with lifelong problems such as poor growth, facial abnormalities, learning and behavioural problems.

More help and support

For tips and tools on helping you drink less and quit smoking, visit the Better Health website.

The NHS website has lots more information on drinking alcohol in pregnancy and the benefits of stopping smoking.

Remember, you do not have to do this alone. Talk to your GP, midwife or pharmacist for help and advice.

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