How smoking when pregnant can harm your baby’s vision

It has been long known that smoking causes health problems for you, those around you and if you’re pregnant, your baby.

Last Updated: March 18, 2023

Tobacco smoke contains a deadly mix of more than 7,000 chemicals. Research suggests that fetal exposure to cigarette smoke during pregnancy is linked to visual problems in children, and a significant risk factor for visual problems later in life.

Fetal exposure to cigarette smoke, including second-hand smoke, is associated with an increase in vision problems in children 

Cigarette smoke is a serious risk factor for crossed eyes (strabismus). In addition, higher rates of refractive errors and problems with the retina and optic nerve were found among children of mothers who smoked during pregnancy.

Smoking slows your baby’s growth before birth

Research has shown fetal exposure to maternal cigarette smoking is associated with an increased risk of growth problems, cognitive delays, and other neuro-developmental issues. Problems with the delicate muscular and nervous structures within the eye were especially affected by smoking.

Smoking is related to premature births, which can have a lot of different complications— some of which are visual

Babies that are born too early miss important growth that happens in the womb during the final weeks and months of pregnancy. Visual complications associated with premature birth include:

Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP)

ROP causes the vessels in the eye to grow abnormally and spread throughout the retina. These new blood vessels are fragile and leak blood into the eye. Scar tissue can form and pull the retina away from the back of the eye, causing vision loss.

Strabismus (Crossed Eyes)

A recent study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that mothers that smoked while pregnant had a 26 percent greater chance of having a baby with strabismus than mothers that did not smoke during pregnancy.

While it’s best to quit smoking before you get pregnant, quitting at any time can still help your health and protect your baby’s health and visual development.


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