Nicotine and alcohol: pregnancy risks

The expectant mother's addictive behaviour directly affects the course of the pregnancy and the baby. Of course it's difficult for smokers to give up their daily nicotine fix. However, you really have to accept that smoking can do the baby enormous harm and threatens its future development. If you want to maximise the chances of giving birth to a healthy baby you would also do well to avoid alcohol.


Smoking and drinking during pregnancy have a negative impact on foetal development. Even if you only smoke a few cigarettes a day and drink in moderation, you are endangering the health of your unborn baby.

Smoking represents an acute risk for your baby

A multitude of scientific studies on smoking during pregnancy have demonstrated that nicotine is harmful to the unborn child. For example, birth weight has been shown to decline significantly when mothers smoke just five cigarettes a day. Serious consequences were observed among expectant mothers who smoked more than 20 cigarettes a day: the average circumference of the head at birth was around 1cm smaller and body length was 1.5cm shorter than in babies born to non-smokers.

Children born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy have been found to have various symptoms such as higher heart rates and unusually unsettled behaviour. The babies are significantly more vulnerable to infections and illness and are at greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome. When they reach school age, the children are more likely to display signs of hyperactivity and learning difficulties.

Why is smoking during pregnancy so dangerous?

Nicotine is passed through the placenta to the foetus. The harmful substance constricts the blood vessels in the placenta and disrupts the supply of oxygen to the unborn child, which significantly increases the risk of miscarriage or premature birth. Statistics show that smokers are twice as likely to give birth prematurely as their non-smoking counterparts. The likelihood of a stillbirths triples. This is hardly surprising: in addition to nicotine, cigarette smoke contains a whole range of toxins, carcinogens and irritants.

One cigarette is one too many

Beat the habit and stop smoking while you are pregnant. You want to give birth to a healthy, contented child and the best way to do that is to give up smoking completely. Giving up smoking has benefits for you too, as it reduces the risk of thrombosis during pregnancy and post partum.

Many people struggle to stop smoking. If you don't have the willpower to stop on your own, it is best to use smoking cessation medication. Acupuncture can also be effective. Don't worry: quitting and using smoking cessation treatments such as nicotine patches will not harm your baby.

Alcohol: best avoided during pregnancy

There is no conclusive scientific evidence about the effects of low volumes of alcohol on unborn children. However, it has been proved that excessive and sustained consumption of alcohol by the mother during pregnancy slows the child's mental development and can cause severe disabilities.

No study has yet determined where moderate alcohol consumption ends and excessive drinking begins. Completely avoiding wine, beer and other alcoholic drinks during pregnancy is definitely the best option for you and your baby. Switch to alcohol-free options once you have a positive pregnancy test result.

You don't need to give up dishes made with alcohol, like cheese fondue or meat dishes marinated in wine. A shot of brandy in sauces and soups won't hurt your baby, because the alcohol boils off. You can also enjoy the occasional liqueur chocolate without any qualms.

Why is alcohol consumption dangerous during pregnancy?

Basically the baby in your belly drinks what you drink. After a short time lag, the level of alcohol in the unborn child's blood will match your alcohol levels. Your liver breaks down the alcohol, but your baby's liver is still developing and cannot break the alcohol down fully. So the harmful effects of the alcohol remain, affecting brain functions in extreme cases.


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