According to the National Vital Statistics Reports, around 10 percent of women in the United States smoke while they are pregnant. This is not only bad for the mother, but it can potentially harm her baby, as well. Research has found that smoking can drastically reduce the chances of having a healthy pregnancy and baby because of chemicals present in the cigarette smoke.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking increases the risk of an early delivery. According to the National Vital Statistics Reports, a smoker is twice as likely to have a baby that weighs under 5 ½ pounds. Babies with a low birth weight are more susceptible to retardation and other health problems.
Though it is not known exactly how smoking cigarettes affects the fetus, most experts agree that chemicals ingested by the mother during pregnancy can trigger abnormal growth in a fetus. Cigarettes are made with more than 2,500 chemicals. Any one of these could have an adverse affect on the growth process. According to a study called Maternal Cigarette Smoking, Metabolic Gene Polymorphism, and Infant Birth Weight done by a grantee of the March of Dimes, women with a certain genetic traits may have a harder time getting rid of certain chemicals. Researchers think that this may be why certain women who smoke are more prone to having underweight babies or premature births. According to the March of Dimes, the carbon monoxide and nicotine in cigarette smoke reduce the oxygen supply to the baby, possibly causing the birth defects associated with smoking.
The U.S. Public Health Service determined that if all women decided not to smoke while pregnant there would be 5 percent less newborn deaths and stillbirths would be reduced by 11 percent.
The very first trimester of the pregnancy can be the most critical when it comes to avoiding cigarettes. According to a study by S. Malik called Maternal Smoking and Congenital Heart Defects, a child is more likely to have birth defects if the mother smoked during the month before she got pregnant or anytime during the first trimester. The study found that these babies were born with congenital heart defects more than any other form of birth defect.
As noted above, smoking even before your are pregnant can have adverse affects on the fetus. If you think you are pregnant or could become pregnant, stop smoking right away by consulting with your doctor.