I Smoked Before I Knew I Was Pregnant — Now What?

You just got a positive pregnancy test, but instead of being stoked, you're worried because you haven't been living the healthiest lifestyle (ie: smoking, drinking, eating unhealthy foods.) One of the first questions many moms-to-be ask their OB-GYN is "Is it OK if I smoked before I knew I was pregnant?"

It's the 21st century, and I dare say there isn't one person in modern society who isn't fully aware that smoking is unhealthy, especially for pregnant women. That said, smoking before you found out you were pregnant doesn't necessarily mean that something will go wrong with your baby or your pregnancy. The important thing is that you quit now.

According to Fit Pregnancy, it takes about a week for the fertilized egg to travel through your fallopian tube and implant in your uterus. The placenta, which nourishes your baby through the exchange of blood between mother and child, begins to develop about 12 days after conception. Dr. Michael S. Broder, assistant clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and author of The Panic-Free Pregnancy, told Fit Pregnancy that very few things done before that point can result in an abnormal newborn.

The experts at Planned Parenthood noted that a developing baby is most at risk for birth defects five to 10 weeks after the mother's last menstrual period, which is around the third to eighth week of gestation. Most pregnancy tests can give a positive result as early as four weeks after the last menstrual period, so it's important to make lifestyle changes as soon as you get a positive pregnancy test result.

Even if you found out you were pregnant when you were a little further along, What To Expect noted a study which found that when women quit smoking before their 15th week of pregnancy, they were no more likely to have a premature or low-birth-weight baby than a nonsmoker.

One thing you can do for your baby, besides cutting out the cigarettes and alcohol, is to start taking folic acid to reduce the risk of a neural-tube defect, one of the most serious types of birth defects. Fit Pregnancy suggested that even those women who are just considering getting pregnant should take a 400-microgram supplement daily.

Don't feel guilty if this pregnancy was a surprise. What To Expect noted that national statistics show that nearly 50 percent of all pregnancies are unplanned. And, most babies — slightly less than 97 percent, according to Fit Pregnancy — are born without any abnormalities.

So, take a breath, toss the cigs, and be as healthy as you can be from here on out.