Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your baby's health here's why.
It's no secret that smoking is harmful to unborn babies, but experts say a lot of expectant mothers don't realise the extent of the damage it can cause.
"Smoking not only affects the health of unborn babies, it also reduces fertility and increases the risk of miscarriage," says Laura Zarpellon, pregnancy project officer at Quit.
And with research showing a third of Australian women are smokers when they become pregnant, Zarpellon says it's crucial they get the message.
"The best thing you can do in preparation for getting pregnant is to quit smoking," she says.
Before the baby
It's a smart idea to quit smoking before you conceive to maximise your chances of a cigarette-free pregnancy. "Most women report wanting to stop smoking for the health of their child, however, the addictive nature of tobacco means that many smokers find it difficult to quit, and relapse after a quit attempt is common," Zarpellon says.
It's also important to get your partner on board. "Passive smoking is a real and significant threat to a baby's health. The poisons in cigarettes inhaled by a mother are passed on to the baby through breast milk and passive smoking," Zarpellon points out.
Women who smoke have a greater risk of premature birth, stillbirth, low birth weight and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
"There is now widespread evidence to suggest foetal exposure to tobacco smoke leaves children with increased risk of serious health problems for the rest of their lives," Zarpellon says. "Children of parents who smoke are more likely to develop respiratory conditions, impaired lung function, asthma, and leukemia. A growing body of evidence has also linked foetal exposure to tobacco smoke with behavioural problems."
The Christchurch School of Medicine & Health Sciences in New Zealand also found people exposed to smoking in utero were more likely to develop depression and alcohol or substance abuse problems than those who weren't.
While it's best to quit smoking before trying to conceive, there is evidence that quitting smoking while you're pregnant can still help your baby's health.
A study by Perth's Telethon Institute for Child Health Research found mothers who quit by four months gestation reduced the risk of their child having behavioural problems.
How to quit for good
If you're a smoker, it's crucial you take advantage of your health care team.
"Women have increased contact with health care professionals during pregnancy, therefore there is a good opportunity for women to be offered support to quit smoking throughout their entire pregnancy," Zarpellon says.
You can also access additional support via the Quitline Pregnancy Callback program. "Calls are made at important times, such as a planned quit day, or times when a pregnant woman or new mother may be under increased risk of relapse, such as weaning," Zarpellon says.
To get extra help, call the Quitline on 131 848.