Nicotine, pregnancy and children

The use of nicotine products weakens fertility in both women and men. The use of nicotine products impacts the menstrual cycle, causing absence of menstrual periods and irregular ovulation. One of the causes of infertility seems to be the accumulation of harmful substances, such as cadmium, in the ovaries. Nicotine-related lower oestrogen and progesterone levels also delay conception.

Planning the pregnancy protects the fetus. It is advisable to stop using nicotine products 2 or 3 months before getting pregnant to be able to use all nicotine replacement products without restrictions.

When treating infertility in couples who use nicotine products, the first step is usually quitting nicotine. This applies to both parents. The use of nicotine products affects the success of infertility treatments and increases the risk of failure with in vitro fertilisation.

Tobacco smoke contains thousands of chemicals, many of which pass through the placenta. The most significant of these are nicotine and carbon monoxide. Nicotine negatively affects circulation in the uterus and placenta, interfering with the oxygen supply of the fetus. Carbon monoxide decreases the transport of oxygen to fetal tissues.

Reasons to quit:

  • Getting pregnant can become easier.
  • The risk of pregnancy complications, such as miscarriage, will be reduced.
  • Energy levels will be higher and breathing will be easier.
  • The oxygen supply of the fetus will be more secure.
  • It is more likely that the newborn baby will be of normal weight.
  • Breast milk production will increase, and the milk will not taste bitter or contain nicotine or heavy metals.
  • The risk of sudden infant death syndrome will be reduced.

The physical health effects on children as a result of parents’ use of nicotine products (passive smoking) include:

  • poorer immunity
  • irritation of the eyes, throat and respiratory tract
  • increased risk of bronchitis
  • increased risk of otitis media, inflammation in the middle ear, and glue ear as a result
  • increased risk of developing asthma and allergies
  • increased risk of learning disorders and hyperactivity.

The psychological health effects on children as a result of parents’ use of nicotine products (passive smoking) may include:

  • worry and fear of parents getting sick or dying
  • concerns about a future without parents.

The risk that the children will start to use nicotine products themselves is also higher.

Susceptibility to addiction varies greatly from person to person. Genetic factors affect starting and continuing the use of nicotine products, the development of physical and psychological dependence, nicotine cravings and relapses.

There are individual differences in the number, type, and distribution of nicotine receptors and the metabolism of nicotine in the liver. The structure of the nicotine receptors found in the central nervous system and the liver’s ability to metabolise nicotine affect how likely a person is to develop nicotine addiction. People whose liver metabolises nicotine slowly are at lower risk of addiction, as their blood nicotine level remains high for longer, causing them more symptoms of nicotine poisoning at the experimentation stage.

The number and sensitivity of nicotine receptors increases as nicotine use continues. The receptors will continue to function abnormally for six months after quitting.