According to studies, 12 to 20% of pregnant women engage in habitual smoking that can be risky not only to themselves but also to their babies. In fact, thousands of babies die every year as a result of smoking during pregnancy.
Smoking cigarettes can cause adverse results to babies as manifested in various complications such as premature birth, small size, and worse fetal death. In fact, smoking is more dangerous for pregnancy as compared to other diseases like high blood pressure or diabetes.
The Dangers of Smoking to Pregnancy
The smoke that the cigarette emits contains over 4,000 chemicals and 60 cancer-causing compounds like lead and cyanide. That’s why, when a pregnant woman smoke, the toxins gets into the bloodstream. This is very harmful to the baby because the baby obtains the nutrients and oxygen in the bloodstream.
Aside from cyanide and lead, two other harmful compounds that are known to be dangerous to health are carbon monoxide and nicotine.
Here are some dangers of smoking while pregnant:
Miscarriage and stillbirth
The first trimester of pregnancy is critical because miscarriages usually happens during that stage. There are also instances of stillbirth that occurs 20 weeks after gestation. Smoking also increases the risk of both stillbirth and miscarriage in which the dangerous chemicals in the cigarette are the culprit.
A study showed that the nicotine content of cigarette causes contractions. When the fallopian tubes contract, the embryo can’t pass through that may result to ectopic pregnancy. This happens when the fertilized egg implants either in the abdomen or the fallopian tubes outside the uterus. In this case, it is essential to remove the embryo to prevent complications that are life-threatening to the mother.
The placenta plays significant role in pregnancy as it supplies oxygen and nutrients to the fetus. Smoking can cause complications such as placental abruption. This condition happens when the placenta separates from the uterus prior to giving birth.
Placental abruption can put the life of both the baby and the mother to risk. There’s no recommended surgery for placental abruption, but immediate medical intervention can increase the chance to safe delivery in spite of the condition.
Another condition in which smoking is the culprit is the placenta previa. As the pregnancy progresses, the placenta grows in the uterus and towards the top of the womb. During the delivery, the placenta opens the cervix. However, there are instances in which the placenta remains in the lower part of uterus and fully or partially covers the cervix, thus placenta previa occurs. Excessive bleeding and insufficient supply of oxygen and vital nutrients may happen when the placenta tears off.
Smoking during pregnancy can also cause preterm birth. When a baby is born before the last trimester, there’s great chance of developing complications such as mental disability, hearing and visual impairments, behavioral and learning problems, and worse death.
Low birth weight
If a pregnant woman smokes, there’s great possibility to deliver a baby with a low birth weight. This condition is also linked to disabilities and other health problems including cerebral palsy, developmental delay, and vision or hearing ailments.
One of the biggest factors giving birth to a baby with birth defects is smoking. The most common is congenital heart defects and other heart problems, cleft palate and cleft lip.
Smoking during pregnancy is also related to long-term health risks such as lung problems, physical growth issues, and learning disabilities. Even after delivery, the baby is more susceptible to coughs, colds, middle-ear infections, pneumonia, and bronchitis.
It’s not only smoking that is dangerous to pregnancy but also second-hand and even third-hand smoke. A studies conducted by the American Lung Association, second-hand smoke has added risks to pregnancy.
Likewise, third-hand smoke makes babies and children at greater risk of developing breathing problems, asthma, cancer, and learning disabilities. Unlike first and second-hand smoke, third hand smoke are those toxins and gases that remains in the clothes and hair of people, drapes, furniture, and in carpet.
Young children who are closer in surfaces that absorb third hand smoke, are more susceptible to getting the toxins.
Why it’s important to quit smoking when pregnant?
Behind all the negative effects of smoking during pregnancy, there are incredible opportunities that lie ahead when a pregnant woman quits smoking. Quitting to smoke is the greatest gift that a mother can give to her baby.
As much as possible, you should stop smoking as soon as you plan to get pregnant. Aside from increasing the chance of getting pregnant, giving up the habit can also eliminate the struggle of thinking other things such as exercising, eating well, and preparing for the delivery.
Taking immediate actions towards giving up smoking will greatly benefit your baby. That’s why you need to lay a plan on how you’d start to quit. It can be difficult to quit, but you can do it as long as you’re determined and think about the welfare of your baby.
You should identify your reason and the benefits why you should quit smoking. It’s not only your baby who would reap the benefits but also you. By changing your daily habits, you can gradually stop smoking. There are other things that you can do to divert your attention. Instead of smoking, you can read about pregnancy book or go for a walk.
Having a strong support from your family or friend can also help to quit smoking. Being around of people who don’t smoke is another way to stop the habit of smoking. You can also ask your doctor for a cessation program, but using cessation aids like nicotine patches is still questionable.