Smoking during pregnancy is more than an unhealthy habit. It can cause serious complications for the mother, such as placental abruption, as well as lifelong complications for the baby. Cigarettes contain more than 4,000 toxic chemicals including cyanide, lead and numerous cancer-causing compounds, such as nicotine. These chemicals pose dangerous health risks that every mother should take seriously.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nicotine in cigarettes causes constrictions in the blood vessels which run through the placenta and umbilical cord. This greatly reduces the amount of oxygen available to the fetus. Smoking also prevents the baby from getting the amount of nutrients he needs to grow appropriately before birth.
Prematurity and Low Birth Weight
Due to the lack of oxygen and nutrients that your baby gets when you smoke, many babies are born prematurely, before the 37th week of pregnancy, and have a lower birth weight. The American Pregnancy Association says that smoking during pregnancy accounts for approximately 20 to 30 percent of low-birth weight babies.
Babies brains are also affected by the lack of oxygen and toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke. Smoking has been shown to decrease IQs, raise the risk of learning disabilities and behavioral problems, and diminish academic performance.
Unfortunately, it isn’t just primary smoking that is dangerous in pregnancy. Secondhand smoke, also called passive smoking, is just as detrimental. According to WebMD, frequent exposure to secondhand smoke increases your risks and your baby’s risks of developing lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, allergies, asthma and other health problems. And, babies who are exposed to secondhand smoke may also develop reduced lung capacity and are at a higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
When to Quit Smoking
The sooner you stop smoking, the better it is for you and your baby. According to a study published in “Obstetrics and Gynecology,” women who quit smoking in the first trimester greatly reduce their risk of having a preterm baby. In addition, women who quit in their second trimester, also reduces their risk of a preterm baby although not as much. The longer you smoke while pregnant, the greater the risks become.
How to Quit Smoking
Even though you know how dangerous it is to smoke during pregnancy, it isn’t always easy to quit. Ask your doctor about how to safely stop smoking. Lean on your friends and family members for support. If you don’t have anyone to support you, join an online group or attend a support group in your local area. There are many resources available to help you quit smoking.