Smoking While Pregnant: How Much Is OK?

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "Expecting Better" by Emily Oster. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

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While you may be a habitual smoker, pregnancy is a special time when smoking will affect the fetus.

How much smoking is OK while pregnant? And what are the risks of smoking during pregnancy?

This one’s pretty simple: tobacco is not recommended at any time in pregnancy or in life. The mechanism of how tobacco causes harm is believed to be nicotine and carbon monoxide restricting oxygen to the fetus and constricting blood vessels in the placenta.

Smoking increases the risk of a lot of complications: anemia, placental abruption, small baby, stillbirths, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Smoking may also cause 5x the risk of SIDS; 86% of SIDS deaths in England were with mothers who smoked.

And unlike alcohol in pregnancy, where moderate drinking didn’t show severe effects, moderate smoking (1-8 cigarettes a day) showed similar risks to more than a pack a day.

Luckily, quitting smoking in the middle of pregnancy decreases complications. If you’re currently smoking while pregnant, it’s not too late to stop. Nicotine replacement therapies show some evidence of being helpful, but the problem is these therapies aren’t that successful in stopping women from smoking.

Smoking While Pregnant: How Much Is OK?

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Here's what you'll find in our full Expecting Better summary:

  • Why much parenting advice you hear is confusing or nonsense
  • The most reliable way to conceive successfully
  • How much alcohol research shows you can drink safely while pregnant (it's more than zero)
  • The best foods to eat, and what foods you really should avoid

Allen Cheng

Allen Cheng is the founder of Shortform. He has a passion for non-fiction books (having read 200+ and counting) and is on a mission to make the world's best ideas more accessible to everyone. He reads broadly, covering a wide range of subjects including finance, management, health, and society. Allen graduated from Harvard University summa cum laude and attended medical training at the MD/PhD program at Harvard and MIT. Before Shortform, he co-founded PrepScholar, an online education company.

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