Risks of Smoking during Pregnancy

According to ObGyn Robert Welch, smoking cigarettes is probably the leading adverse cause for complications in babies. Dr. Welch, who practices in Southfield, Michigan at Providence Hospital, as chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, he has witnessed first hand all of the many negative effects of women who continue to smoke while pregnant: premature babies, under-weight babies, and babies who die while still inside the womb. This is the scary reality that prevents many pregnant women from having a healthy babysimply put, they can’t quit smoking. Unlike high blood pressure or diabetes that can be treated with medications, there is nothing that a doctor can do to keep an unborn baby safe from the dangers of cigarette smoke. So why is it so dangerous for women to smoke during pregnancy?

Toxic Chemicals Found In Cigarette Smoke

Cigarette smoke is a weird concoction of chemicals that many people would think was put together by a mad scientist. Over 4,000 chemicals exist in cigarette smoke including: lead, cyanide, and at least 60 carcenogenic-causing compounds. When a woman is pregnant and smokes, this deadly waste makes it way into the bloodstream, which is the baby’s only source of nutrients and oxygen.

No sane mother would deliberately add these deadly chemicals directly to their baby’s food, but essentially, cigarette smoking does this. Carbon monoxide and nicotine are particularly deadly, and account for the majority of smoke-related complications during pregnancy. Carbon monoxide and nicotine work together to restrict the flow of the baby’s oxygen supply, by narrowing blood vessels, including those found in the umbilical cord. This can be compared to trying to breathe through a heavy winter blanket. Even more problematic is the dynamic that occurs in the red blood cells that transport the oxygen-gradually they will start to snatch up molecules of carbon monoxide instead. This vicious cycle continues to rob the unborn baby of its oxygen.

Some of The Devastating Effects on A Baby’s Growth and Development

A shortage of oxygen effects a baby’s growth and development in the following ways:

1) Smoking during pregnancy doubly increases the risk of a baby being born weighing less than 6 pounds at birth.

2) Babies exposed to cigarette smoke are often born prematurely

3) Cigarette smoking may lead to a baby being stillborn.

4) Low weight babies tend to have underdeveloped bodies. Their lungs may not function properly which will likely result in them being connected to a respirator for the first few days or weeks after being born. These babies may continue to have breathing problems due to delayed lung development or other adverse issues related to nicotine. While some women may welcome the chance to deliver a smaller infant, a baby’s stunted development while still inside the uterus can have adverse consequences that lasts for life. 

5) Children affected by cigarette smoking are especially vulnerable to SIDS.

6) Babies exposed to cigarette smoke in the first trimester of pregnancy are more likely to have a congenital heart defect at birth.

7) Smoking while pregnant can have lifelong effects on a baby’s brain.

A woman may reason that smoking a few cigarettes a day is safer than smoking a whole pack, but there is no wide margin of difference by doing this, since a smoker’s body is particularly sensitive to nicotine introduced at the start of the day.

Secondhand Smoke and its Affect on Pregnancy

Passive smoke or secondhand smoke is the combination of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette and exhaled smoke. If a pregnant woman is regularly exposed to secondhand smoke, it increases the baby’s risk of developing heart disease, lung cancer, allergies, emphysema, asthma, and other health issues. Babies vulnerable to passive smoke have a higher likelihood of  developing restricted lung function and are at higher risk for SIDS.

Ways a Pregnant Woman Can Quit Smoking

A pregnant woman who wishes to quit smoking can consult a doctor for more information about the many cessation programs available. Some helpful tips that may help you quit smoking may involve you making drastic lifestyle changes including:

1) Hiding your lighters, matches, and ashtrays.

2) Transforming your home into a non-smoking living space.

3) Asking people not to smoke around you.

4) Drinking fewer caffeinated beverages.

5) Avoiding alcohol.

6) Completely changing your routine that is directly connected with smoking.

7) Replacing smoking with other activities, such as yoga, walking or taking up a new hobby when you feel stressed.

8) Keeping sugarless candy or gum on hand when the urge to smoke is strongest.

9) Getting support from a group or people who will help you stop smoking.

10) Avoiding  smoke-friendly places such as clubs or bars and smoking sections of restaurants.

Health Benefits When a Pregnant Woman Quits Smoking

The health benefits of quitting smoking start within just days of kicking the habit. After quitting, both the mother and her baby’s heartbeat will return to normal. Furthermore, the baby will have less breathing issues. Symptoms of nicotine withdrawal may include: irritability,hunger, coughing, headaches, or concentration difficulties, but these are only temporary. They will eventually subside within two weeks. It’s important to remember to stay in control when withdrawal symptoms occur. Keeping a fixed goal and a strong reason for quitting in mind or on paper will help when occasional urges arise, it takes time for the body to get used to functioning without nicotine. Not only will a mother be able to heal her your own body, but will safeguard the health of her unborn child in the process.