Smoking and Pregnancy: What You Need to Know
Updated: Sep 15, 2022
While smoking is harmful to anyone’s health, it's especially dangerous to pregnant women. Up to 14% of pregnant women currently smoke cigarettes. The chemicals and nicotine in cigarette smoke can cause serious health problems for both the mother and her baby. If you're pregnant, don't live with the worry caused by smoking. Instead, try to kick the habit - read on for information about help and support to quit smoking during pregnancy.
Dangers of Tobacco Smoke
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic to both mother and fetus. Nicotine is one of these chemicals; it is a stimulant that stimulates the nervous system by binding to nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the brain stem and spinal cord. The effects include increased heart rate, constriction of blood vessels, increased blood pressure, and relaxation of airways in the lungs. These effects on the mother's body make it difficult for her to get enough oxygen into her bloodstream to function normally while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Health Risks to Your Baby at Birth
Even if you are a light smoker, it can harm your unborn child. The more cigarettes you smoke, the greater the risk. Some of the risks associated with smoking during pregnancy include:
Acute Nicotine Poisoning: If you smoke while pregnant and get too much nicotine in your blood, it can pass through the placenta and enter your baby's bloodstream. This can cause vomiting, abnormal heart rate, seizures or coma.
Premature and Low Birth Weight: Babies born to mothers who smoke weigh an average of 1.5 pounds less at birth than babies of nonsmoking mothers. These babies have an increased risk of breathing problems at birth, learning disabilities later in life, and other chronic health conditions through childhood and adulthood.
Heart Defects: Some of these defects include ventricular septal defect (VSD) and patent ductus arteriosus (PDA). VSD is a hole between the upper chambers of the heart (atria) that lets oxygen-rich blood flow out
Miscarriage or Stillbirth: Smoking while pregnant may increase the risk of miscarriage or stillbirth by as much as 50 percent.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): Smoking during pregnancy is a leading cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). This is because nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke affect the way your baby's brain develops. If you smoke during pregnancy, your baby's risk of SIDS is 2 to 3 times higher than that of babies born to mothers who don't smoke.
Health Risks to Your Baby After Birth
Children born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy are more likely to have health problems like asthma, bronchitis, and ear infections. These children may also be smaller than other children their age and have behavioral problems such as hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder. This may be because nicotine exposure in utero affects brain development and leads to lasting changes in brain function.
If you're pregnant and smoking, now is the time to quit. Even if you have only smoked for a short time, quitting now will make a noticeable difference in your baby's health. The money saved from quitting will help pay for diapers, formula, and other things you’ll need for your baby. If you need help getting started or would like to pass this information on to someone you know who smokes, contact Vincere Health. We are eager to help you on your journey to quit!