Women's health and pregnancy

High risk for smoking women


The latest research shows that the risk of death from lung cancer, COPD, ischemic heart disease, any type of stroke, and all causes are now nearly identical for female and male smokers. (Thun 2012). Earlier generations of women had a lower risk from smoking than men. Women smoked fewer cigarettes and tended to take up smoking at a later age. Now that women are ‘smoking like men, they are dying like men’.

Overall, women lose about 11 years of life expectancy if they smoke and men lose about 12 years.



As well as the general effects of smoking, women are at increased risk of cancer of the cervix and ovary, infertility, dysmenorrhoea (painful periods) and premature menopause.

Smoking also increases the risk of breast cancer by 20-30%. However, more Australian women are now dying from lung cancer than breast cancer.


Pregnancy effects

Smoking mothers and their babies are at substantial risk of serious health problems. The best time to quit is before you get pregnant so that your risk of complications is reduced to what it would be as a non-smoker.

Effects on the mother

Smoking approximately doubles the risk of


  • Ectopic (tubal) pregnancy
  • Spontaneous miscarriage
  • Placenta praevia and placental abruption (disorders of the placenta which can cause serious bleeding)
  • Preterm birth.

Effects on the child

  • Babies are 200g lighter at birth on average
  • The risk of of stillbirth (baby dead at birth) is doubled
  • There is a 2-3x greater risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)
  • Smoking affects the baby's brain causing emotional, cognitive (thinking) and behavioural problems in childhood
  • Children have a higher risk of obesity, blood pressure, type 2 diabetes if their mother smoked in pregnancy
  • There is a significantly higher risk of certain birth defects, such as short limbs, clubfoot, eye defects, cleft lip
  • Children whose mothers smoke in pregnancy are also more likely to become smokers themselves later in life

video_icon-small.jpgClick here  to see an animated video which explains the risks further.


Last Modified: 13-05-2018