Smoking And Your Unborn Baby
Protecting your baby from tobacco smoke is one of the best things you can do to give your child a healthy start in life. It can be difficult to stop smoking, but it’s never too late to quit.
Every cigarette you smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, so smoking when you are pregnant harms your unborn baby. Cigarettes can restrict the essential oxygen supply to your baby. As a result, their heart must beat harder every time you smoke.
How Can Smoking Affect Your Baby
When you smoke during pregnancy, chemicals like nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar pass through the placenta and umbilical cord to your baby.
These chemicals are harmful to your baby. They can lessen the amount of oxygen that your baby gets. This can slow your babys growth before birth and can damage your babys lungs and brain.
If you smoke during pregnancy, your baby is more likely to:
- Be born prematurely, before 37 weeks of pregnancy
- Have birth defects, including birth defects in a babys mouth called cleft lip or cleft palate. Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth. They change the shape or function of one or more parts of the body. Birth defects can cause problems in overall health, how the body develops or how the body works.
- Have low birthweight. This means your baby is born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces.
- Die before birth from miscarriage or stillbirth. Miscarriage is when a baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Stillbirth is when a baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
- Die of sudden infant death syndrome . SIDS is the unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year old. SIDS usually happens when a baby is sleeping. Its sometimes called crib death because the baby often dies in his crib.
If you smoke and are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant, tell your provider. Your provider can help you quit.
Can You Just Cut Down On Smoking Or Do You Have To Quit
You may think that light or mild cigarettes are safer choices during pregnancy. This is not true. Or you may want to cut down rather than quit smoking altogether. Its true that the less you smoke, the better for your baby. But quitting is best.
The sooner you quit smoking during pregnancy, the healthier you and your baby can be. Its best to quit smoking before getting pregnant. But quitting any time during pregnancy can have a positive effect on your babys life.
On average, smokers die 10 years earlier than nonsmokers. Quitting smoking reduces your risk of cancer and other diseases, like heart disease. When you quit smoking, you never have to go outside and look for a place to smoke. And quitting smoking can help you have:
- Cleaner teeth, fresher breath and a better sense of taste
- Fewer stains on your fingers
- Fewer skin wrinkles
- More energy to be more active
If you need help to quit smoking, tell your health care provider.
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If You Quit Before Or During Your First Three Months Of Pregnancy:
- You reduce your risk of complications during the birth and have a better chance of a safe labour and birth for you and your baby.
- You lower the risk that your baby will be born too early .
- Your baby has the same chance of having a healthy birth weight as a baby of a non-smoker .
- You reduce the risk of the baby suffering illness during their early years and of the baby dying at, or after, birth.
The Dangers Of Smoke To Your Unborn Baby
Every cigarette you smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, so smoking when pregnant harms your unborn baby. Cigarettes can restrict the essential oxygen supply to your baby and as a result their heart has to beat harder every time you smoke.
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Benefits Of Quitting For You And Your Baby
Smoking cuts down the amount of oxygen and nutrients that get to your baby through the placenta.
Your baby needs these to grow and develop, so babies of women who smoke tend to be smaller.
A smaller baby does not mean an easier delivery. The babys head wont be much smaller but their lungs and heart may be under developed and weaker.
If you smoke, stopping before or during pregnancy will reduce the risk of:
- your baby being born with abnormalities
- slow baby growth
Does Drinking During Pregnancy Cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders refer to a range of disorders caused by drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Fetal alcohol syndrome can cause abnormal facial features, growth deficiency, and problems with the central nervous system. Children with fetal alcohol syndrome may also have learning disabilities, attention span disorders, and other physical disabilities, including vision and hearing problems.
There is no “safe” limit of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Some studies have found that small amounts of alcohol consumption can have the same adverse effects on the fetus as binge drinking.
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Why Smoking During Pregnancy Is So Bad For The Baby
Smoking during pregnancy is arguably the worst thing a woman can do for the health of the unborn baby. For some women, being pregnant is the perfect argument to quit smoking completely, even after childbirth. However, for others, the addiction is still too strong.
Despite public health campaigns, tobacco use continues to be common among women. It is estimated that 12% of American women still smoke cigarettes today. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7.2% of women who gave birth in 2016 smoked cigarettes during their pregnancy. Most of them think that reducing their tobacco consumption might be enough not to endanger the life of the fetus, but this is not the case since even one cigarette per day can cause harmful effects.
How Smoking Affects Your Baby
Smoking during pregnancy exposes your baby to harmful chemicals. Every time you smoke, the baby effectively smokes too, as harmful nicotine and other chemicals pass through the placenta and into the fetus. Smoking also reduces blood flow for your baby.
Smoking while pregnant can result in a far higher risk of:
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Nicotine Replacement Therapy During Pregnancy
It is recommended that you first try to quit without medication. However, if you are unable to quit, you may use nicotine replacement therapy to help you. While using these products is considered safer than smoking, even this smaller amount of nicotine may not be entirely risk-free for your baby.
If you are pregnant, it is important to consult your doctor before using nicotine replacement therapy to discuss the risks and benefits of using it. The Quit Specialists at the Quitline can help you decide what support is best for you.
Benefits Of Stopping Smoking In Pregnancy
Stopping smoking will help both you and your baby immediately. Harmful gases, such as carbon monoxide, and other damaging chemicals will clear from your body. When you stop smoking:
- you will reduce the risk of complications in pregnancy and birth
- you are more likely to have a healthier pregnancy and a healthier baby
- you will reduce the risk of stillbirth
- your baby is less likely to be born too early and have to face the breathing, feeding and health problems that often go with being premature
- your baby is less likely to be born with a low birth weight. Babies of smokers are, on average, 200g lighter than other babies, which can cause problems during and after labour. For example, they are more likely to have problems keeping warm and are more likely to get infections
- you will reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome , also known as “cot death”.
Stopping smoking now will also help your baby later in life. Children whose parents smoke are more likely to suffer from asthma and other serious illnesses that may need hospital treatment.
The sooner you stop smoking, the better. But even if you stop in the last few weeks of your pregnancy this will benefit you and your baby.
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Risks Of Smoking While Pregnant
- Women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have a miscarriage.
- Smoking during pregnancy can cause a baby to be born too early or to have low birth weight. This increases the risk the baby will be sick and have to stay in the hospital longer. Premature birth or low birth weight can even be fatal for some babies.
- Smoking during and after pregnancy is a risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome . SIDS is an infant death for which a cause of the death cannot be found.
- Babies born to women who smoke are more likely to have certain birth defects, like a cleft lip or cleft palate.
While those are the main risks of smoking while pregnant, there are other suspected dangers of smoking during pregnancy. It may cause your baby to have more colds, lung problems, learning disabilities, and physical growth problems.
If a mother continues to smoke after the birth, the baby may get more colds, coughs, and ear infections. Secondhand smoke from cigarettes makes it harder for babies to breathe, putting the baby at risk for bronchitis and pneumonia. There is also evidence to suggest that asthma is more likely to develop in kids whose parents smoke.
If You Stop Smoking Later In Your Pregnancy:
- Your baby has a better chance of having a healthy birth weight.
- It helps your baby practise their breathing movements to get ready for birth.
There are many benefits of quitting smoking for you and your baby. It might be challenging, but theres a lot of support available.
Quitting early on in pregnancy is best but quitting at any time gives your baby a better chance of a healthy start.
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Is It Bad To Be Around Smoke While Pregnant
If you are exposed to second-hand smoke during pregnancy, both you and your baby are put at risk. Some of the health conditions associated with being exposed to second-hand smoke are a miscarriage, low birth weight, early birth, learning or behavioral deficiencies in your child, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome .
What Are The Risks Of Smoking While Using Birth Control
Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH Written by Pandia Health Editorial Team. Updated on January 4th, 2021
There are risks associated with both smoking and oral contraceptives, and mixing the two can be a deadly combination. Smoking is known to restrict ones blood vessels, causing blood clots that lead to cardiovascular issues. On the other hand, oral contraceptives affect the bodys hormonal makeup, making ones blood thicker than usual.
Simply put, the synergistic effects of smoking and using birth control leads to a greater risk of cardiovascular issues like strokes or heart attacks.
If youre both a smoker and a user of birth control, check out the below information about how smoking affects various contraceptive methods.
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Benefits Of Quitting Smoking
The CDC also has a lot to say about the benefits of quitting. Even if youre still smoking into your pregnancy, quitting will help you and your baby. Your baby will get more oxygen, even after just one day of not smoking!
The risks of tobacco use and pregnancy decrease if you quit, including:
- Less risk that your baby will be born too early.
- Better chance that your baby will come home from the hospital with you.
- You will be less likely to develop heart disease, cancer and so on, so
- You will be more likely to live to know your grandchildren.
- You will have more energy and breathe more easily.
- Your clothes, hair and home will smell better.
- Your food will taste better.
- You will have more money that you can spend on other things.
- You will feel good about what you have done for yourself and your baby.
Why put you and your baby up against the all-too-apparent dangers of smoking during pregnancy?
There are so many reasons tobacco use and pregnancy will put your health in danger, along with the health of your child. It isnt easy to quit, but speak to your doctor to get the support and help you need. Make the effort for you and your baby.
Other Consequences Of Smoking During Pregnancy
Tobacco also increases the frequency of a large number of pathologies in pregnancy:
- The risk of metrorrhagia,
- The relative risk of retroplacental hematoma is multiplied by 1.5,
- The risk of low insertion of the placenta is multiplied by 2 to 3. The placenta in smokers has a larger surface area due to hypoxia,
- High blood pressure during pregnancy is less common in women who smoke, but it is more serious when it occurs.
- The increase in oral pathologies,
- The increased risk of stretch marks,
- The increase in healing abnormalities after cesarean section, changes in certain laboratory parameters .
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The Benefits Of Stopping
Stopping smoking will help both you and your baby immediately. Harmful gases, such as carbon monoxide, and other damaging chemicals will clear from your body and help to protect your baby.
The following are all benefits highlighted by NHS Start for Life on stopping smoking whilst pregnant:
- Youre doing the best thing for your babys health
- The chances of having a miscarriage or still birth are reduced
- Youll minimise the risk of cot death
- Your baby is less likely to be born early or underweight
- Stopping smoking will help your baby in later life some people suffer from asthma and other serious illnesses if their mother smoked while pregnant
NHS Start for Life
Preterm Premature Rupture Of Membranes
Preterm premature rupture of membranes is a condition in which the amniotic sac breaks, leaving you and your baby more susceptible to infection and increasing the likelihood of premature delivery.
One study found that pregnant people who smoked heavily increased their risk of PPROM in the early gestational age.
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An Increased Risk Of Infertility
The toxic substances contained in tobacco damage DNA and human cells: smoking cigarettes thus leads to a decrease in fertility by disrupting sperm production in men and by reducing the number of oocytes per ovary in women.
Some epidemiological studies have shown that smoking delays conception by an average of two months and that this effect is directly related to the number of cigarettes people smoke. A meta-analysis of studies even found that smoking increased the risk of infertility in women by 60%.
Fortunately, this detrimental effect on fertility appears to be reversible: over time ex-smokers recover the same fertility rates of those who have never smoked.
The success rate of in vitro fertilization is also reduced. Stopping smoking greatly increases fertility and fertility.
How Does Estrogen Increase The Risk Of Blood Clots
Overall, men are more likely than women to suffer from blood clots. However, hormones that are unique to female biology increase the risk of blood clots in some women in particular, estrogen increases clotting factors in the blood, which is why pregnant women are at high risk of blood clots since estrogen levels rise during pregnancy.
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Can I Use A Nicotine Replacement During Pregnancy
Nicotine gum and patches release nicotine into the bloodstream of the smoker who is trying to quit. Although these products can reduce withdrawal symptoms and decrease cravings in smokers who are trying to quit, the safety of these products hasn’t been adequately evaluated in pregnant women.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that nicotine gum and patches be considered in pregnant women only after other nondrug treatments, like counseling, have failed and if the increased likelihood of quitting smoking, with its potential benefits, outweighs the unknown risk of nicotine replacement and potential smoking.
Is It Safe To Use E
No. E-cigarettes contain chemicals, like nicotine, that can harm you and your baby. Flavors and other chemicals in e-cigarettes may be harmful to you and your baby. Breathing in someone elses e-cigarette vapor also may be harmful. More research is needed to better understand how e-cigarettes affect women and babies during pregnancy.
If youre pregnant and using e-cigarettes, talk to your health care provider about quitting.
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Pregnancy Complications From Smoking
Some of the pregnancy complications more commonly experienced by women who smoke include:
- ectopic pregnancy this is pregnancy outside the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube
- fetal death death of the baby in the uterus
- spontaneous abortion known as miscarriage
- problems with the placenta, including early detachment from the uterine wall and blocking the cervical opening
- premature rupture of the membranes
- premature labour.
How Can Nurses And Midwives Help
Its now widely accepted that any contact with a pregnant woman from preconception through to postnatal visits provide an opportunity to give advice on smoking cessation, but many midwives remain unclear on what exactly this advice should be.
In the UK, the National Institute of Clinical Excellence suggests that practitioners should follow the ask, advise and act sequence to help pregnant patientd become non-smokers:
- Ask and record smoking status, verifying it with a carbon monoxide monitor
- Advise the patient briefly about the importance of quitting
- Act to refer them to quit services.
Although these guidelines are clear about the need to help pregnant patients stop smoking, its also clear that practitioners lack confidence and training on how to communicate this message in a way that actually achieves behavioural change.
Similar research carried out by Longman et al. explored the enablers and barriers to implementation of the Australian smoking cessation in pregnancy guidelines. These guidelines suggest that practitioners follow the 5 As of cessation:
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