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Tobacco Use During Pregnancy

What We Know & Why it Matters

Effects on The Mother

Women who use tobacco – either through smoking or vaping –  are at higher risk for heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer, and other serious illnesses such as diabetes and chronic bronchitis.  Tobacco use during pregnancy can cause issues with the placenta, such as placenta previa and placenta abruption, which can put the mother’s life and health at risk.[1]
[1] Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Office on Smoking and Health. (n.d.). Women and Smoking. Retrieved February 17, 2022.

Before Birth: Growth & Development

Smoking and vaping tobacco affects a pregnant woman’s heart and lungs, cutting off the oxygen supply to the unborn baby. When you smoke or vape, oxygen cannot move across the placenta to let your baby “breathe.” The oxygen and the food supply can be cut off, making it hard for your baby to grow and thrive.  Babies may be premature, have certain birth defects, and respiratory illnesses, leading to years in and out of hospitals and doctors’ offices.

Smoking and vaping are two of the main causes of a baby being born too early, which can cause damage to the baby’s lungs and brain that can affect development throughout life. Sometimes, being too small at birth can cause a baby to die or to be put into the newborn intensive care unit (NICU). 


Using tobacco during pregnancy can cause a baby to have a hard time responding to its mother. Additionally, your baby may have the “shakes,” which can make comforting and calming your baby difficult. Caring for a baby experiencing such irritability can be extremely difficult.

Breast Milk & Secondhand Smoke

Remember, everything you take in can be passed to your baby through your breastmilk. This includes nicotine, which can flavor the milk and limit your baby’s appetite. Nicotine ingestion can also cause your baby to vomit, have diarrhea, be restless, and have a high heart rate. Secondhand smoke can also cause your baby to cough, have trouble breathing, and experience an increased rate of colds and ear infections.

Babies whose mothers used tobacco during pregnancy and those who are exposed to secondhand smoke are much more likely to die of crib death.

Difficulty in School

Did you know that the effects of tobacco use during pregnancy can affect children into the teenage years and beyond?

Children whose mothers used tobacco during pregnancy can have behavior problems when they get to school.  Your child may have trouble paying attention to what you or the teacher says, and learning difficulties are more likely.


Did you know that heating, air conditioning, and fans actually spread cigarette smoke through the home? Although smoking or vaping outdoors is better, there are still risks to your child.  Smoke and vapor particles cling to clothing, hair, and skin, bringing poisons into the home and in close contact with your child.

It's Never Too Late!

Stopping tobacco use now will create a healthier environment for both you and your child.  Using nicotine patches may be a good option, as they can reduce the levels of nicotine in the breast milk. Contact your healthcare provider for more information or call the South Dakota Quitline at 1-866-737-8487.

You can also visit for additional support and resources.

If you choose to continue smoking or vaping, wait until after you’ve breastfed your baby and never breastfeed and smoke/vape at the same time.  Choose to smoke/vape outside and then wash up and change your clothes before you pick up your baby.  While these precautions will reduce the effects of secondhand smoke, they will not eliminate them.