Smoking while pregnant affects your developing child in many ways, even into their childhood.
Just as you shouldn’t drink and drive, a woman should not smoke while pregnant. While there has been so much evidence that smoking is harmful to an unborn child, some women still do it, or live with the secondhand smoke of others that do.
Smoking and Pregnancy – Knowing the Risks
The bottom line is that the two don’t mix. If you are a smoker and plan on becoming pregnant, quitting smoking is a very important first step. In addition, secondhand smoke is just as harmful to an unborn baby.
Because cigarettes contain dangerous chemicals such as carbon monoxide, nicotine, and tar, smoking increases the risk of many pregnancy complications. Some of them include:
- Miscarriage and Stillbirth – a miscarriage generally takes place within the first 3 months of pregnancy. In the rare occurrence that it happens after week 20, it is considered a stillbirth. Smoking increases the risk of both of these due to the chemicals found in cigarettes.
- Ectopic Pregnancy – this type of pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, such as in the fallopian tube or in the abdomen. When this happens, it must be removed to escape life-threatening problems for the mother. Studies show that nicotine can contribute to ectopic pregnancies.
- Placenta Previa – the placenta is supposed to move with the uterus up towards the top of the womb so that the cervix is clear during delivery. Placenta previa is when the placenta stays in the bottom and gets in the way of the cervix. The placenta can tear and deprive the baby of oxygen and nutrients. Smoking increases this risk!
- Placenta Abruption – this occurs when the placenta separates from the uterine wall prior to labor and delivery. It can cause severe bleeding and endanger the lives of both mother and baby. There is no surgery that reattach the placenta if this happens.
- Premature Birth – premature, or preterm birth, is when a baby is born too early. A premature baby has numerous health complications and could result in death.
- Low Birth Weight – it doesn’t just mean delivering a small baby. It can lead to additional health problems and disabilities, including cerebral palsy, developmental delays and hearing and vision impairments.
- Birth Defects – congenital heart defects and problems with the hearts structure, are the 2 most common types. A baby with a cleft palate or cleft lip, are also associated with smoking when pregnant.
- SIDS – research suggests that the risk of sudden infant death syndrome increases in mothers that smoked while pregnant.
These risks are greatly increased in women who smoke while pregnant, or who live with secondhand smoke. The only way to guard against the dangers of smoking while pregnant is to quit altogether.
Talk to your doctor or health care provider for information on how to quit smoking.