The facts are clear – and rather alarming – in relation to smoking whilst pregnant. The effects of smoke on an unborn baby can be catastrophic, and nothing short of quitting completely will protect your child from a range of health and developmental issues. But if you need any more persuasion, some specific information on the consequences of smoking while pregnant might be useful.
How can smoking affect your unborn child’s health?
There are more than 4,000 different chemicals contained in cigarette smoke, and when inhaled, these potentially harmful chemicals pass from your lungs into your bloodstream – and then onto your baby via the umbilical cord. As well as causing several different issues, these chemicals can also stop oxygen and essential nutrients from reaching your baby. The staff at a pregnancy care unit can explain the effects of smoking whilst pregnant in detail, but they include the following:
- The chemicals in smoke can make your baby’s heart beat faster
- Your baby’s growth rate can be affected
- Your baby’s brain may be damaged, or its development could be severely stunted
Many of the symptoms your baby will suffer as a result of your smoking will not be apparent until after he or she has been born. The most serious complication is stillbirth – although this is rare. However, it is worth bearing in mind that your child will be at a significantly increased risk of premature birth because of your smoking.
There is evidence to suggest that a child subjected to the chemicals from cigarette smoke whilst in the womb will be less able to cope with other birth complications and health ailments during the first few days of life. Babies born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy are typically lighter and weaker, and they are more prone to hearing difficulties, sight problems and cerebral palsy.
Among the other health complications your baby might suffer from are breathing problems, difficulties in keeping warm and an elevated risk of cot death. And the low birth weights caused by smoking have been linked to coronary heart disease and type-2 diabetes in adults.
How can smoking whilst pregnant affect a mother’s health
The effects that smoking during pregnancy have on the mother are often overlooked, but they can be every bit as serious as the risks posed to an unborn child. Morning sickness is far more likely to occur if you’re smoking, and its effects can be significantly worse than would otherwise be the case. You are also at risk of various pregnancy related issues that can lead to blood loss and heart problems, including placental abruption, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy and pre-eclampsia.
Where can you find help?
Fortunately, help can be found from several different sources if you’re serious about quitting smoking. A maternity care hospital will provide you with emotional and practical advice on stopping, as well as a choice of clinical solutions such as nicotine patches and hypnosis. You can also ask for advice from midwives, GPs and pharmacists.
The advice for pregnant women with regard to smoking is unequivocal: Stop smoking the moment you discover you’re pregnant, or you run the risk of harming both your unborn child and yourself.