Pregnant & Smoking? Stop now!
Pregnancy is a joyous yet delicate period in a woman’s life, which is why stomping out a detrimental habit such as smoking is paramount when one is pregnant. If you happen to be pregnant and are still smoking, this article is meant to convince you stop.
Being pregnant means, among other things, being responsible for that tiny life growing inside you and as a mom-to-be, you’d surely want to do everything possible to ensure that your innocent, unborn baby gets the best care you can afford to provide, and one way is through ensuring your own good health. If you are a smoker, you may or may not realise that cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including truly dangerous substances like cyanide, lead, and at least 60 cancer-causing compounds.
When you smoke during pregnancy, that toxic brew gets into your bloodstream – your baby’s only source of oxygen and nutrients.
Nicotine and carbon monoxide
Two compounds that are especially harmful which are contained in cigarettes are nicotine and carbon monoxide. These two toxins are the culprits of almost every smoking-related complication in pregnancy.
Nicotine and carbon monoxide work together to reduce your baby’s supply of oxygen. Nicotine narrows the blood vessel, cutting off oxygen supply to blood vessels throughout your body, including the ones in the umbilical cord. When this happens, your baby will feel like he’s being forced to breathe through a narrow straw!
To make matters worse, the red blood cells that carry oxygen start to pick up molecules of carbon monoxide instead, cutting off what little oxygen there is, leading to serious complications such as premature delivery and even stillbirth.
Smoking during pregnancy can cause preterm birth (when a baby is born too early). There are numerous health risks associated with a preterm birth. These can include:
- visual and hearing impairments
- mental disability
- learning and behavioral problems
- complications that could result in death
Are You Willing to Take The Risk?
Each cigarette smoked increases the risks to the smoker’s pregnancy. A smoker’s body is especially sensitive to the first doses of nicotine each day, and even a single cigarette is capable of narrowing a human’s blood vessels. That’s why even a seemingly harmless so called “social” habit can have significant ramifications on an unborn child’s health.
What smoking does to a pregnancy
Smoking significantly increases the risk of a number of pregnancy complications, some of which can be fatal for the mother or baby. Here are some of them.
Studies have found that nicotine can cause contractions in the fallopian tubes, preventing an embryo from passing through. One result of this is an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus. It can implant in the fallopian tube itself or even in the abdomen. In this situation, the embryo must be removed to avoid life-threatening complications to the mother.
Issues with the placenta
The placenta develops during pregnancy to provide the fetus with nutrients and oxygen. Smoking is known to cause serious issues with this important life-supporting structure.
One such problem is placental abruption, a condition when the placenta separates from the uterus before childbirth. Placental abruption can cause unnecessary bleeding besides placing the life of both the mother and baby at risk.
Smoking is also a risk factor for placenta previa, where the placenta stays in the lower part of the uterus, partially or fully covering the cervix. In a case like this, a placenta may tear, causing excessive bleeding and depriving the fetus of vital nutrients and oxygen.
Your baby’s weight and size
On average, a pack-a-day habit during pregnancy is known to rob about a half-pound from a baby’s birth weight in total! Smoking two packs a day throughout your pregnancy could make your baby a full pound or more lighter. While some women may quite foolishly welcome the prospect of delivering a smaller baby, stunting a baby’s growth, both mentally and physically in the womb is extremely selfish and irresponsible, and can lead to serious health complications for a baby.
Smoking and Your Baby’s Heart
A baby whose mother smoked in the first trimester of pregnancy is more likely to have a heart defect at birth.
Babies born to moms who smoke also have a 20 to 70 percent higher risk of developing congenital heart defects compared to those whose moms didn’t smoke.
The defects include:
- Obstruction to the flow of blood from the right side of the heart into the lungs (right ventricular outflow tract obstructions).
- Obstructed blood flow from the openings between the upper chambers of the heart (atrial septal defects).
Body and lungs
Children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy are especially vulnerable to asthma, and have double or even triple the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
An undersized baby, which is a common result of smoking when pregnant, tends to have an underdeveloped body. Those tiny lungs may not be ready to work on their own, which is why most of these unfortunate babies born to smokers end up spending their first days or weeks attached to a respirator.
For those who make it through and are able to eventually breathe on their own, they may still suffer some serious respiratory problems later on, placing their whole childhood period at risk.
Children of pregnant smokers are known to suffer from learning disorders, behavioral problems and are also found to have relatively low IQs.
Behind all these grim statistics, there still lies a ray of hope: You can give your baby a huge gift by giving up your habit – the sooner the better.
Give up before you get pregnant!
Ideally, you should give up smoking even before you get pregnant. You’ll probably also have an easier time getting pregnant. (Smoking lowers the chance of conceiving by about 40 percent.)
You also won’t have to struggle with quitting at a time when you should be busy with other things, like eating for a healthier pregnancy, enjoying your special nine months and preparing for your baby’s birth.
Why take the risk?
Smoking raises the likelihood of both early miscarriage and stillbirth, where the dangerous chemicals in cigarettes are to blame.