Smoking during pregnancy

Smoking during pregnancy is the most common preventable risk factor for pregnancy complications and supporting women to stop smoking during pregnancy can reduce the risk of adverse outcomes for mothers and their babies.

Smoking is associated with poorer perinatal outcomes, including low birthweight, being small for gestational age, pre-term birth and perinatal death.

Support to stop smoking is widely available through antenatal clinics.

The figure shows proportions of women who smoked at any time during pregnancy, smoked in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy or smoked after 20 weeks of pregnancy by a range of topics for 2019. The figure also shows a line graph of trends for women who gave birth between 2011 and 2019 by smoking status. In 2019, 30,224 mothers, or 10%, smoked at any time during pregnancy.

The most recent data shows that 1 in 10 mothers (10%) report smoking at any time during pregnancy, a rate that has been gradually falling since data became available in 2009 (15%). Teenage mothers (aged under 20) were the most likely to smoke (33%), followed by mothers aged 20–24 years (22%).

About 1 in 5 women who reported smoking during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy did not continue to smoke after 20 weeks.

Some women may smoke before knowing they are pregnant, and stop once they find out they are pregnant. According to the 2019 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, around 1 in 5 (22%) women smoked before they knew they were pregnant, and 1 in 10 (11%) smoked after they found out they were pregnant (AIHW 2020).

As the number of previous pregnancies increased, so did the proportion of mothers who smoked, with nearly 1 in 3 mothers (30.5%) who had 4 or more previous pregnancies reporting smoking during pregnancy. Mothers living in Very remote areas (35.2%) or in the lowest socioeconomic areas (18.1%) also had higher rates of smoking than mothers in Major cities (7.6%) and the highest socioeconomic areas (4.0%), respectively. These differences were apparent even after adjusting for maternal age.

For related information see National Core Maternity Indicator Smoking during pregnancy

References

AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2020. National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019. Drug statistics series no. 32. Cat. no. PHE 270. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 13 April, 2021.