Smoking and pregnancy

The Cayman Islands Cancer Society is observing May as Lung Cancer and Tobacco Awareness Month.


Heavy smoking can reduce a mothers milk supply.

Just by being a woman, the female smoker is at increased risk of tobacco-induced diseases. And by becoming mother, she endangers the health of her child.

Smoking during pregnancy can cause serious problems including complications during labour, increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth and still birth.

When you smoke you are taking in more than 4,000 chemicals. Once carbon monoxide enters the blood stream, it cuts down the amount of oxygen reaching the baby. For every cigarette a pregnant woman smokes, the oxygen supply to the baby is disrupted for 15 seconds and the baby will experience reduced blood flow for 15 minutes.

How smoking harms the unborn baby

Babies born to mothers who smoke:

? Are more likely to be born prematurely and with a low birth weight.

? Have organs that are smaller on average than babies born to non-smokers.

? Have poorer lung function.

? Are twice as likely to die from cot death. There seems to be a direct link between Sudden Infant death Syndrome (SIDS) and parents smoking.

? Are taken into hospital twice as often during the first eight months of life.

? Get painful diseases such as inflammation of the middle ear and asthmatic bronchitis more frequently in early childhood.

? Are more likely to become smokers themselves in later years.

It’s also important to stay smoke-free after you bring your baby home. Both mother and father should refrain from smoking in the house, and insist that visitors to do the same as babies who are exposed to cigarette smoke after birth suffer from more respiratory illnesses, ear infections, and tonsillitis than babies of non-smoking parents.

Nursing mothers who smoke can pass along harmful chemicals from cigarettes to their babies in breast milk. Heavy smoking can reduce a mother’s milk supply, and on rare occasions, causes symptoms in the breastfeeding baby such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhoea.

If you’re pregnant and still smoking

It’s never too late to stop smoking. Every cigarette you decide not to smoke will help both yours and your baby’s health.

Much of the damage caused by smoking can be reversed because your body is a living organism that has the ability to heal itself. Women who stop smoking halfway into their pregnancy are more likely to give birth to babies with the same average weight as women who do not smoke at all during pregnancy.

How to stop smoking

You can get support and advice about stopping smoking from the Cayman Islands Cancer Society through our smoking cessation program. Evidence shows that smoking cessation can double quit rates for pregnant women.


The Cayman Islands Cancer Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing the development of cancer through its education programs and screening initiatives as well as to providing financial assistance to cancer patients and their families with treatment related expenses. The Society also offers counselling and support to cancer patients and their families. The Society funds its programs through donations and fund-raising events. For more information on the Society call 949-7618 or email [email protected].