Smoking is considered one of the main reasons for getting problems during pregnancy or shortly after giving birth. Likewise, children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy and breastfeeding are significantly more likely to have respiratory and intellectual problems in childhood and later in life. Women who have problems with diabetes or high blood pressure during pregnancy further increase their baby’s health risks. That is why we will emphasize the effects of smoking during pregnancy
Also read: Effects of alcohol in pregnancy
Why is it dangerous to smoke during pregnancy?
Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 different chemicals and at least 60 of them are carcinogenic (causing cancer). The most famous compounds in cigarette smoke are nicotine and carbon monoxide, which are also the most harmful to you and your child. When you smoke during pregnancy, your baby’s bloodstream receives a number of harmful substances and poisons, and remember that your baby’s bloodstream is the only source of oxygen and nutrients.
Nicotine passes smoothly through the placenta, but reaches far lower concentrations in fetal tissue. About 3,800 cigarette breakdown products pass when smoked unfiltered into the baby’s bloodstream. Among others are cadmium and other heavy metals, radioactive substances, as well as cancer-causing substances that can be found in the baby’s urine after birth.
According to data from multiple studies worldwide, smoking during pregnancy is responsible for embryo- and fetotoxic effects. The average weight of a newborn baby in women who smoked during pregnancy is about 200 grams less. The frequency of preterm birth is increased in women who smoke during pregnancy. Also, the risk of miscarriage is twice as high as that of non-smoking women.
Smoking mothers are also more likely to have perinatal infant mortality (infant death syndrome).
The impact of smoking on a child
Smoking damages the human embryo and fetus during prenatal development as well as later after delivery during breastfeeding. Although there are exceptions and of course, there are cases where mothers smoked during pregnancy and their children are born completely healthy, it is certainly necessary to keep in mind the real and proven facts that say that smoking significantly increases the risk of stillbirth, premature birth, birth of a very low birth weight and retarded development.
Although the toxic effects of smoking during pregnancy are indisputable, the exact mechanism of the described disorders is still unknown. Nicotine is thought to cause impaired maturation of placental function and intrauterine oxygen deficiency (fetal hypoxia) that are responsible for the toxic effects of smoking.
Nicotine narrows the blood vessels, decreases blood flow through the placenta, and causes blood pressure to increase in the unborn baby. Smoking toxic carbon monoxide binds to blood pigment in red blood cells and suppresses oxygen. The unborn baby is already suffering from chronic oxygen deficiency in these conditions and is still struggling in the uterus for air.
Numerous shots show how the baby’s stomach responds every time he inhales the cigarette smoke. Think of it as a restricted oxygen supply to a child, and this little powerless creature is forced to breathe in a very thin straw. As all chemicals enter your bloodstream when you smoke, all poisons reach your baby during pregnancy. This puts the child at risk because his or her only supply of oxygen and nutrients is impaired.
Oxygen deficiency can have huge effects on a child’s proper growth and development. Smoking doubles the chances of preterm birth and the birth of a low birth weight baby. Many expectant mothers who are unable (or unwilling) to give up cigarettes are comforted that reducing the number of cigarettes smoked will completely protect their child from risk. However, just one cigarette a day is enough to make it difficult for your child to supply oxygen.
Smoking one box of cigarettes daily during pregnancy can put off about half a kilo of childbirth. Smoking two packs of cigarettes a day can reduce that weight by one kilogram or more. It may not seem dangerous to you, but lagging in baby growth can have negative consequences that last a lifetime.
Development of the body and lungs – Because of the risk of preterm birth, or because of developmental delay due to lack of oxygen, there is a high risk that your baby’s lungs will not be sufficiently developed at birth to allow the baby to breathe independently. This means the baby can spend his first days hooked up to a respirator. Once they start breathing normally, these children may still have trouble breathing, due to delays in lung development caused by the deleterious effects of nicotine. Children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy are particularly sensitive to respiratory diseases, for example, may suffer from asthma during life, but may also be twice as likely to have sudden infant death.
Heart development – Babies whose mothers smoked in the first trimester are at increased risk of developing congenital heart defects. The likelihood of congenital heart defects is as much as 70% higher in babies whose moms smoked. Smoking causes lower blood flow, which has a detrimental effect on heart health.
Brain development – Smoking during pregnancy impairs the intellectual maturation of the baby. The children of mothers who smoked during pregnancy show lags in computing, reading, and speaking relative to their peers, and behavioral problems and lower IQ.
The risk of hyperactivity as well as behavioral abnormalities is registered in 22% of children of women who smoke during pregnancy and in only 8% of children whose mothers are non-smokers. Pregnancy smoking is also a significant risk factor for the subsequent development of allergies, neurodermatitis, as well as asthma in a child. These children also frequently register aggressive and stubborn behavior.
Does it hurt your baby to stop smoking?
Many pregnant women are comforted that it is healthier to reduce their smoking than to quit because quitting will cause tremendous stress and thus harm the baby more than smoking. After much research, no one has been able to prove that this theory “holds water”. The child will not have an “abstinence crisis”. So, in terms of the impact on pregnancy, it is best to try to minimize the number of cigarettes you smoke, and if you can completely quit, it will certainly have a positive impact on you and your child.
If you do not manage to quit completely, reducing smoking to a minimum is also a good way to go. Above all, it is a healthy decision if you manage to limit yourself to about 5 cigarettes a day.
What can a pregnant woman do to reduce the dangers for the baby?
The best thing you can do for your unborn child is stop smoking. Although it may take more than a year for the poisons accumulated in the body to smoke to quit the body, if you are pregnant, the only correct decision is to stop smoking as soon as possible. If tobacco smoke can do so much harm to an adult body, just imagine how dangerous it is for a small underdeveloped child.
Provide your baby with healthy and normal development. It would be best if you quit smoking before pregnancy, it may be easier for you to become pregnant as smoking decreases the likelihood of conception for any cycle by 40%. Also, you won’t have to struggle with giving up at a time when you need to think about other things.
But of course, not everyone succeeds. However, if you find out you are pregnant and still smoke, quit because it is not too late. Taking steps towards weaning can have a tremendous benefit for baby development. Get support while you quit smoking from your doctor, parent, friend, or partner.
Also read: Everything You Should Know About Cholesterol
Irena is a dentist from Croatia, working extensively in her field, but she also has a high interest in the fields of fitness, nutrition and medicine in general. She has been educating herself about how to lead a healthy lifestyle for years. She seeks to help people adopt healthy habits as well as healthy and positive thinking about life. In her spare time, she hikes, runs, plays saxophone and guitar, and develops her own websites – Salubrius Vita and GoalDigger. Her life motto is: When they expect a lot from you, you do even more.