Gestational Diabetes And Smoking


Smoking is associated with an increased risk of various illnesses such as pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) and lung cancer. Smoking while pregnant is more dangerous and studies have shown that smoking in pregnancy exposes the mother and child to the risk of many health problems.

Cigarettes contain more than 4000 chemicals, most of which are toxic and can harm your baby. Every time you smoke there is reduced oxygen and nutrient supply to your baby.

What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a kind of glucose intolerance that develops in pregnant women who didn't have diabetes before pregnancy. It is usually detected in the middle of pregnancy and tested between 24 and 28 weeks. It can cause health problems in both the mother and the developing foetus during pregnancy and after birth. Hence gestational diabetes needs to be managed to ensure both the mother's and the baby's health safety. 

Gestational diabetes is often linked to the hormone produced during pregnancy that causes insulin resistance. Genetic makeup and weight can also play a role. Although most cases of gestational diabetes can be managed by lifestyle and diet, some severe cases may need insulin to meet the body's insulin demand.


Most cases of gestational diabetes do not come with noticeable symptoms, or usually, the symptoms are mild and it is usually detected when the blood sugar levels are measured.

However, when the blood sugar gets too high, symptoms start to develop and this can be

  • More frequent urination
  • Dry mouth
  • Feeling thirsty more often
  • Fatigue

Smoking endangers the pregnancy

Smoking during pregnancy can endanger your pregnancy by increasing your risk of birth complications such as ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth, miscarriage, premature membrane rupture, and premature labour.6,7,8 Cigarette components have been associated with low birth weight, which puts your baby at risk of cognitive defects and psychiatric symptoms such as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD).6 In addition, low birth weight can make the baby vulnerable to infection and even death.

Worsens symptoms of gestational diabetes

Smoking can worsen your gestational diabetes symptoms. Studies have shown that nicotine can raise blood sugar, and when your blood sugar gets too high you experience more symptoms of gestational diabetes.6 It gets harder to adjust your blood sugar to safe levels and increases your insulin need.

Increases risk of birth defects

Another damaging effect that you expose your unborn baby to when you smoke during pregnancy is the increased risk of birth defects.6 These defects include cleft palate and other congenital defects that affect the development of your baby's brain and lungs.

Increases risk of miscarriage and premature labour

Studies have shown a relationship between tobacco smoking and miscarriage. Carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke can reduce oxygen and nutrient supply to the developing foetus.

Tips on how to quit smoking 

Smoking exposes you to a lot of health risks, smoking cessation helps you to prevent health complications such as preeclampsia and worsening of gestational diabetes. Most importantly, it prevents harm to your unborn child that can arise from smoking and also reduces the risk of health issues such as asthma for your child later in life.

Quitting smoking can be hard but it is feasible and here are tips that can help you to quit.

  • Make the firm decision to stop by throwing away all your cigarettes
  • Write out all the reasons to stop smoking
  • Inform your loved ones of your decision, the support you get from them can help you
  • Write out your smoking triggers and a plan on how to avoid them
  • When you feel the urge, keep yourself busy to distract it
  • If you are finding it difficult to stop, try nicotine replacement therapies(NRTs). They are available as patches, nasal sprays, gums, lozenges, oral strips, etc. Smoking addiction is due to nicotine content. NRTs contain nicotine but without the other toxic chemicals found in tobacco. However, speak to your doctor, pharmacist, or midwife before taking any of these
  • Seek help from expert or quitline counsellors to help you stop smoking 


Cessation of smoking as early as possible during pregnancy is important because smoking can endanger both you and your unborn child, it can worsen gestational diabetes and also put you at risk of preeclampsia and birth complications. In addition, it can endanger your pregnancy and expose your baby to congenital defects and health risks later in life. It can sometimes be hard to quit but there are tips that we hope will help, so as to protect the health and well-being of you and your baby during and after pregnancy.


  1. CDCTobaccoFree. Cigars [Internet]. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. 2022 [cited 2023 Mar 4].  
  2. Masalin S, Kautiainen H, Gissler M, Pennanen P, Eriksson JG, Laine MK. Impact of smoking on gestational diabetes mellitus and offspring birthweight in primiparous women. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand [Internet]. 2020 Dec [cited 2023 Mar 4];99(12):1632–9.
  3. CDCTobaccoFree. Smoking during pregnancy [Internet]. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. 2022 [cited 2023 Mar 4].
  4.  CDC. Gestational diabetes and pregnancy | cdc [Internet]. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. 2022 [cited 2023 Mar 4].
  5. Gestational diabetes [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2023 Mar 4].
  6. Knopik VS. Maternal smoking during pregnancy and child outcomes: Real or spurious effect? Dev Neuropsychol [Internet]. 2009 [cited 2023 Mar 4];34(1):1–36.
  7. Pineles BL, Park E, Samet JM. Systematic review and meta-analysis of miscarriage and maternal exposure to tobacco smoke during pregnancy. Am J Epidemiol [Internet]. 2014 Apr 1 [cited 2023 Mar 4];179(7):807–23.
  8. Quit smoking - better health [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2023 Mar 4].

Ummkhair Omolade Abdussalam

Bachelor of Pharmacy - BPharm, Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Ilorinm, Nigeria

Ummkhair is a budding researcher that is passionate about making impact. She hopes to improve the health and well-being of people by making accurate health information available to help them make informed choices about their health.
Her other core interests are pharmacology, clinical pharmacy, global health and cancer. presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
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