Every pregnant woman needs to realize that everything she does that affects her own health, in a positive or negative manner, will also affect the health of her unborn child.
Smoking is a habit that results in significant health concerns to the smoker themselves but may have very serious and adverse affects on the health of an unborn baby during and after pregnancy. Pregnant women that are frequently exposed to secondhand smoke, even though they may not smoke themselves, may also be at a higher risk for complications during pregnancy affecting the health of their baby.
Pregnancy and smoking is an unhealthy combination which can increase the risk of fetal mortality, cause prenatal health issues and also have adverse affects on cognitive and developmental growth. The nicotine and tar from a cigarette that is inhaled while smoking, as well as carbon monoxide, carcinogens and numerous other toxins including formaldehyde, gets absorbed into the mother’s bloodstream and goes directly to the baby through the placenta. The placenta, which provides oxygen and nourishment to the baby in utero, does not have the ability to weed out anything unhealthy which is why it is the mother’s responsibility to make healthy choices for the health of her unborn child. Common complications and health problems associated with pregnancy and smoking:
Increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)- Higher risk of low birth weight and premature birth- Birth defects such as missing limbs, abnormally shaped body parts or cleft palates- Gestational hypertension, respiratory problems (underdeveloped lungs), gastrointestinal problems and other health issues- Decreased oxygen received by the baby and baby can also have an accelerated heart rate
Smoking during pregnancy may also affect a baby’s emotional, mental and behavioral development. After birth a baby may experience shortened attention spans, hyperactivity, cognitive impairment, and even behavior problems. The detrimental effects of smoking on an unborn child can be greatly reduced the earlier maternal smoking is stopped. If a woman who smokes is planning to become pregnant she should stop smoking well before she conceives. If her pregnancy is a surprise, so to speak, the quicker she stops smoking adverse affects to her baby will be lessened. If smoking does not cease, the baby will be at risk throughout pregnancy and even after. Quitting cold turkey is ideal if a woman is pregnant; however, heavy smokers may experience difficulty quitting and may want to look into alternative methods such as nicotine replacement therapy. The use of nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, etc. should be discussed with a doctor or midwife to understand the risks associated with use of these products during pregnancy.