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Smoking during Pregnancy

Smoking tobacco is related to numerous serious health conditions in the human body. In women, apart from the general ill-effects, smoking is also known to cause many adverse effects relating to pregnancy and childbirth. Several studies have actually shown that a regular smoking habit may cause miscarriages in pregnant women as well as cause serious harm to the fetus. Passive smoking or intake of secondhand smoke also poses as an issue of serious concern as it can be equally threatening to the fetus. Heavy paternal smoking has been known to increase the possibility of an early pregnancy loss.

The ideal thing for a woman to do is never to indulge in smoking before and during pregnancy or after childbirth. However, if that is not possible, the daily intake of cigarettes should be reduced to minimum in order to minimize the health risks for both mother and the baby. This is especially true in case of the women living in underdeveloped countries who have to provide for all the necessary nutrients during breastfeeding as it is important for the overall nutritional status of the child. In this article, you can find out various facts relating to how smoking affects women’s health during their pregnant months.

Effects of Smoking during Pregnancy

There is a considerable amount of risks associated with smoking during pregnancy. If a woman smokes during pregnancy, it can give rise to numerous health issues for both the mother as well as the fetus. Smoking cigarettes actually doubles the chances of a woman developing placental problems. Smoking can cause the following effects on an ongoing pregnancy:

  • Placental abruption
  • Placenta previa
  • Early rupture of the membranes
  • Ectopic pregnancy

Smoking during pregnancy statistics

In United States, nearly 10% of women are in the habit of smoking during pregnancy. Among the women who smoked tobacco during the last three months of their pregnancy, nearly 52% reported of smoking five or less cigarettes in a day; 27% women reportedly smoked six to ten cigarettes in a day, and the remaining 21% of women smoked eleven or more cigarettes in a day. In United States, the women who got unintentionally pregnant are 30% more prone to smoke while they are pregnant than those who got pregnant intentionally.

Smoking during pregnancy risks

Smoking during pregnancy can result in a number of health defects both for the mother as well as the fetus. These side effects of smoking during pregnancy are discussed below:

Placental abruption

Smoking during pregnancy can result in Placental abruption. Placental abruption is a process in which the placenta prematurely separates from the site of attachment. This causes significant problems for both mother and her fetus. The health of the fetus can be in danger and it might even face death. The impact placental abruption has on the fetus depends totally on the fetus’ gestational age as well as the severity of placental abruption. The mother carrying the fetus has a possibility of losing blood and might even experience hemorrhage. Blood transfusion may be required to save the mother.

Placenta previa

Placenta previa is another pregnancy-related complication where the growth of placenta takes place in lowest parts of the uterus, covering the cervical opening partially or wholly. Having a placenta previa is also an economic stress since it requires one to have a caesarean section delivery that is much more expensive. It also means that the mother has to go through a longer period for recovery in the hospital. One can also have other complications like maternal hemorrhage which can be treated with blood transfusion. Women having placenta previa should be cautiously monitored. Delivery should be conducted by c-section as this helps to avoid majority of the complications.

Early rupture of the membranes

This involves premature rupture of the amniotic sac which induces labor before the full development of the baby. Although this complication generally has quite a good prognosis, especially in the Western countries, early rupture of the membranes causes severe stress as the prematurely born child might have to keep on staying in the hospital for some time to gain strength and health for sustaining life on his or her own.

Ectopic pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fetus is implanted outside of uterus. The most usual spot for the fetus to be implanted is within the fallopian tubes. These pregnancies are not exactly viable, leading to the eventual death of the fetus. It is important to identify an ectopic pregnancy at the right time which can otherwise prove to be life-threatening for the mother. If ectopic pregnancy is not detected in time, the fetus will grow too large, thereby bursting the fallopian tube.

Premature birth

Women who smoke during their pregnancy or are exposed to secondhand smoke have around 30% possibility of giving birth to a premature baby.

Implications of smoking for umbilical cord

The habit of smoking can potentially damage the proper development of placenta. This can prove to be problematic as it reduces the blood flow to fetus. If the placenta remains underdeveloped, the umbilical cord that transfers nutrients and oxygen from a mother’s blood to her placenta is unable to transfer enough nutrients and oxygen to the growing fetus. This hinders the proper growth and development of the fetus. Heavy bleeding can occur while the mother is delivering the baby that can eventually endanger both the mother and baby’s life. However, going for a cesarean delivery might help to avoid deaths in most of these cases.

Pregnancy-induced hypertension

Some evidence suggests that smoking can reduce pregnancy-induced hypertension when the mother is pregnant with one child. However, this effect is not seen when the mother is pregnant with twins.

Smoking increases the possibilities of nearly every other health risks related to pregnancy for both the mother and child. It is the most important preventable factor of sickness and death for mothers and babies in developed world.

Dangers of smoking during pregnancy on the baby

Babies born with low birth weight

The habit of smoking almost doubles the chances of babies born with low birth weights. A study in 2004 revealed that nearly 12% babies born to smoking women had low birth weight as compared to just 7.2% babies that were born to nonsmokers. Infants born to smoking women weigh nearly 200 grams less on an average than babies conceived by nonsmoking women. Premature babies and low birth weight babies also have an increased possibility to suffer from chronic lifelong disabilities like mental retardation, cerebral palsy and learning problems. These infants also have an increased possibility to die early.

Sudden infant death syndrome

Sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS is a phenomenon where an infant dies suddenly and the causes of death remains unexplainable by the baby’s medical history. Reasons for death are even hard to find after autopsy. An increased level of nicotine frequently found in the SIDS cases suggest that infants who are exposed to tobacco smoke both at the time of pregnancy as well as after childbirth are more prone to SIDS. Infants that are exposed to smoke at the time of pregnancy have 3 times more possibility to die suddenly of SIDS than the children born to nonsmoking women.

Withdrawal symptoms noticed in children after birth

A study conducted in 2003 show that the children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy display withdrawal-like symptoms similar to the babies that are born to mothers using illicit psychotropic substances during pregnancy. These children were more jittery and difficult to soothe than the babies that were born to nonsmoking mothers.

Other birth defects caused by smoking

Smoking can also lead to many other birth defects, such as reduced birth circumference, altered lung structure, altered brainstem development and cerebral palsy. The US Public Health Service reported recently that provided all the pregnant women in United States checked their smoking habits, the incidence of stillbirths will be reduced by 11% and newborn deaths will be reduced by 5%.

Future obesity

Recent studies have proposed the idea that if a mother smokes during her pregnant months, it can result in future teenage obesity. Although no majorly differences could be ascertained between younger teenagers whose mothers smoke as compared to younger teenagers having nonsmoking mothers, generally the older teenagers having smoking mothers had nearly 33% more abdominal fat and 26% more body fat than teenagers of similar age group having nonsmoking mothers. Increase in the body fat may actually be a result of smoking during pregnancy, as this impact the genetic programming of the fetus in connection to obesity. Although the exact causes for this difference is unknown, studies done on animals indicate nicotine can affect the brain functions that coordinate the eating impulse and energy metabolism. This causes a significant impact on the proper maintenance of healthy body weight. Due to alteration of brain functions, the problem of teenage obesity can further lead to numerous health problems such as diabetes, hypertension as well as cardiovascular diseases.

Future smoking habits

Research indicates that if a woman smokes during her pregnant months, it increases the chances of her offspring to start smoking from an early age.

Quitting smoking during pregnancy

Deciding to quit smoking at any point when one is pregnant is more beneficial to the health that smoking continuously throughout the entire duration of 9 months. In fact, it is even better if a woman quits smoking during the first trimester or within the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. However, a study conducted recently suggests that women who indulge in smoking at anytime during first trimester are risking their fetus for probable birth defects, especially congenital heart defects. Congenital heart defects are structural abnormalities in an infant’s heart that hinders smooth flow of blood. The longer a woman smokes into her pregnancy, the higher are the risks associated with birth defects. The number of cigarettes smoked in a day also influences the outcome of the pregnancy. Although the risks will increase if a woman keeps on smoking during her pregnancy, quitting smoking at any point during her pregnant months can still minimize the ill-effects of tobacco smoking on the fetus.

Smoking during pregnancy can have serious long term consequences both for the mother as well as the child. There are many ways in which a pregnant woman can try and quit smoking. Drug therapies and regular counseling can assist a woman in this path. For all non-pregnant smokers, one of the best ways to try and quit smoking is to try out Nicotine replacement therapy through the use of patches, inhalers, sprays, gum, lozenges or sublingual tablets. It is however important to keep in mind that using Nicotine Replacement Therapies or NRTs is highly questionable for a pregnant woman as they can deposit nicotine in a child’s body. Still for many pregnant smokers, Nicotine Replacement Therapies might be the most suitable way to quit smoking. You can also consult your doctor in order to determine what should be the ideal way for you to quit smoking.

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