Smoking and Pregnancy

The life and health of the woman and her unborn child are at risk if the mother to be smokes. It has been reported that among women of reproductive age, about 33 percent smoke on a regular basis.  The fetus in her uterus is in contact with her bloodstream and any chemicals that the mother breathes or ingests will affect the fetus. This could be in the form of active smoking (where the mother smokes herself) or passive smoking (where the mother is inhaling smoke from the environment). The heavier the smoker a pregnant woman is, the more are the chances of this showing on the offspring. If you are an active smoker during pregnancy and smoked about 13-14 cigarettes a you are likely to have a “hyperkinetic” child as compared to a women who smoke around 6 cigarettes and give birth to normal children. It has also been proven that smoking women have lower fertility rates than women who do not smoke. Offsprings of smoker mothers have a three time higher mortality rate from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) than children of non smoker mothers.

The complications involved with smoking and pregnancy are:

  • You may end up having preterm labor.
  • Your child may be underweight- Low birth weight can result from poor growth before birth.
  • Your chances of stillbirth, miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy (outside the uterus) are higher.
  • Your baby may have growth delay inside the uterus.

Babies who are born with low birth weight have problems all through their life because they are at a greater risk of childhood and adult illness, which may be fatal. Premature and underweight babies have a higher chance of suffering from ill health during their initial life period. They may end up with major lifelong disabilities such as mental retardation, learning disability, and cerebral palsy. At times such children do not survive. The smoke contains many poisonous compounds and the presence of carbon monoxide in the blood stream of the fetus reduces the supply of oxygen to the developing baby. The hemoglobin in such babies has carbon monoxide instead of oxygen that hampers their development. Also your chances of a PROM (Premature Rupture of Membranes) are increased in case you smoke during your pregnancy. In PROM you feel a tickle from your vagina when the water bag breaks and you end up in labor within a few hours. If this situation occurs before the 37th week of pregnancy, it is termed as preterm PROM and you deliver a premature baby.

Infants born to smoker mothers have reduced lung function and may suffer from lower respiratory tract infections. In their lifetime, such children have an increased risk for impaired lung function and may also suffer from asthma and respiratory infections. There is a major rise in placental problems like placenta previa or placental abruption for women who are heavy smokers during pregnancy. This results in heavy bleeding during delivery, endangering the life of the mother and baby. To prevent any complication resulting in death, a cesarean section can be performed. Placental problems also may result in still birth.

A few guidelines mentioned below must be followed to prevent birth defects to you new born child:

  • You must not drink alcohol during pregnancy
  • You must not use illegal drugs
  • You must start folic acid tablets. They prevent spinal birth defects to the fetus.
  • You must quit smoking before planning a pregnancy.

If you plan to quit smoking then all things linked with this bad habit like ashtrays, lighters, cigarettes and so on must be thrown away. You must maintain a healthy lifestyle and go for walks, drink ample amount of water, and take your health care provider’s help if needed. It is recommended that a woman should stop smoking before she gets pregnant and does not smoke till her delivery. There are certain inspirational factors which may enable a woman to stop smoking during her pregnancy for example support from family and friends and understanding the harmful effects of smoking on the new born child.

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