Most people know that smoking cigarettes while pregnant is a bad idea, but many are unaware of just how damaging it can be. There are more than 2,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke and none of them are good. When it comes to causing complications during pregnancy, carbon monoxide and nicotine are the two primary culprits, and have been known to cause low birth weight, premature birth, and even stillbirths. In the following paragraphs I’ll discuss some of the negative effects cigarette smoking can have on the fetus and mother.
There have been many documented cases of stillbirths and spontaneous abortions due to smoking. Secondhand smoke can also be a culprit here, so women shouldn’t assume that it’s okay to be around others smoking if she doesn’t light up herself.
Hampers Fetal Development
Prenatal tobacco smoke exposure has been shown to reduce birth weight. It slows down the growth and development of the fetus and interferes with lung development. Exposure also greatly increases the likelihood of the fetus to pass meconium while still in the womb, which can be life threatening.
Smoking during pregnancy can result in several birth defects including:
- Neural tube defects
- Heart defects
- Underdeveloped head and brain
- Shortened limbs
- Club foot
Impaired Behavioral Development
The damage done from smoking while pregnant continues to effect the fetus years later. Children exposed to tobacco smoke in the womb are much more likely to develop attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and demonstrate antisocial behavior. They are also more likely to have difficulty learning. These children are also more likely to start smoking during middle childhood.
Smoking while pregnant causes certain hormonal imbalances that often prohibit proper secretion of breast milk. This leads to a premature disruption of breastfeeding, causing potential complications for the mother and the infant. If the mother continues to smoke while breastfeeding the infant, nicotine will be passed to the child through the breast milk. This causes feeding problems, colic, excessive crying and sleep issues for the child.
Pregnant women who smoke heavily throughout their first trimester put their baby at a significantly elevated risk of developing heart complications. For this reason, women are advised to immediately quit smoking once they find out they’re pregnant. If quitting on your own is too difficult, consult with your doctor to get the assistance you need to kick the habit.
Smoking while pregnant may have long term negative effects on the fetus’ brain development. Learning disabilities, behavior problems and low IQ are not uncommon in these instances. Even smoking for only art of your pregnancy can have a profound negative effect on your child. There are many important developmental changes going on with a fetus each week, so optimal health for the entire term is necessary for proper development.
Awareness is the Key
It is important for expecting mothers as well as those women who may become pregnant to be aware of the risks of smoking while pregnant. The resulting issues can be very serious, and could impact your child throughout his or her life.