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      Smoking and drinking during pregnancy

      Red Wine

      Smoking and drinking during pregnancy

      Giving up for good

      Give your baby the healthiest start in life

      It’s well known that smoking and drinking during pregnancy can affect your baby’s health. But it’s not just mums-to-be who need to make sacrifices – smoking near a pregnant partner can be damaging too. Giving up cigarettes and cutting down on alcohol isn’t easy, but it will mean you feel healthier and fitter when your baby arrives. Our Careline team are here to help if you need some support.

      Why give up smoking1?

      Smoking is known to have detrimental effects on an unborn baby’s health, so it’s a good idea for both you and your partner to give up.

      When your pregnant partner is exposed to passive smoke, your baby takes in a range of harmful chemical substances, including:

      • Nicotine – known to constrict blood vessels, affecting the uterine and placental blood flow and increasing your baby’s blood pressure and heart rate
      • Carbon monoxide – binds to haemoglobin in the blood, meaning that blood cells carry less oxygen resulting in a low birthweight
      • Tar – a cancer-causing substance that can irritate the lungs

      Of course, once your baby has arrived, any smoke they inhale will have the same negative effect on their health. So by giving up smoking now, your baby will be getting a healthier start in life, and you might be able to completely kick the habit.

      Why give up alcohol?

      Sometimes your partner might have had a drink early on in pregnancy before realising they’ve conceived. But after they’ve discovered they are pregnant it’s recommended they give up completely.

      The Department of Health recommends that if you’re pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, you should avoid alcohol altogether. But, if you do opt to have a drink, you should stick to no more than one or two units of alcohol (equivalent to one or two small glasses of wine) once or twice a week to minimise the risk to your baby.²

      Whilst your alcohol consumption won’t have a direct effect on your child, by giving up or cutting down on alcohol you’ll be offering some valuable moral support for your pregnant partner.

      If you’re cutting down, rather than fully giving up, it’s a good idea to stick to the recommended daily alcohol intake, which is 3–4 units for men or 2–3 for women.

      Counting the units3

      Drink Units
      Standard glass of wine (175ml, 12% ABV) 2.1
      Pint of premium lager, beer or cider (5.2% ABV) 3
      1 single measure of spirit (25ml, 40% ABV) 1
      Alcopop (275ml, 5.5 ABV) 1.5

      Next steps

      Here are some handy tips for giving up smoking and drinking4:

      • Set a date to quit and stick to it. It helps to have a fixed goal
      • Exercise can help curb cravings
      • Fidget and chew gum. Keeping your mouth and hands busy will stop the habitual reach for the cigarettes
      • List the reasons you are quitting and cutting down, and look back at them when you’re tempted
      • Think positive; it makes all the difference

      If you’re finding it difficult to quit smoking, you can also call your local NHS Stop Smoking Service and Stop Smoking Helpline on 0300 123 1044 (open Mon–Fri, 9am–8pm and Sat-Sun, 11am–4pm).

      1. NHS Choices. Stop smoking in pregnancy [Online]. 2015. Available at: [Accessed August 2015]

      2. NHS Choices. Alcohol in Pregnancy [Online]. 2015. Available at: [Accessed September 2015]

      3. NHS Choices. Alcohol Units [Online]. 2015. Available at: [Accessed August 2015]

      4. NHS Choices. 10 Self-Help Tips to Stop Smoking [Online]. 2014. Available at:[Accessed August 2015]

      Last reviewed: 19th November 2015

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      Questions about feeding and nutrition?

      Our midwives, nutritionists and feeding advisors are always on hand to talk about feeding your baby. So if you have a question, just get in touch.