Contributed by- Dr. Snehal Singh
Most people know that smoking poses major health risks; can even cause cancer. But do you know that smoking affects pregnancy too? Yes, that’s true. Smoking can increase the risk of pregnancy complications. It can affect the baby’s health and even cause birth defects. Smoking, both active and passive, when pregnant causes birth defects and long-term health problems which are difficult to deal with.
Many women take a wise decision of quitting smoking during pregnancy. This may help the mother and the baby in many ways. However, it is best to quit smoking even before you get pregnant to ensure a healthy pregnancy. As smoking greatly affects health, getting pregnant while smoking, may in itself be a challenge. To add to it are the health risks of smoking while pregnant.
Cigarettes contain many harmful chemicals, if you are aware of its dangers, it would help you quit smoking. Here are some of the dangers of active and passive smoking during pregnancy.
Health Risks Of Smoking During Pregnancy
Smoking harms the health of a person in every way; when it comes to pregnancy, it can be truly serious. Smoking can make it difficult for a woman to conceive and get pregnant. Additionally, it increases the risk of health problems during pregnancy. When men smoke, it can affect the male sperm, again making fertility a big challenge. It too raises the chances of high-risk pregnancies, miscarriages and birth defects in the babies.
Smoking can affect the health of the mother, the unborn baby and continue to affect the baby health much after birth. Here are some health risks:
Pregnancy complications – Smoking increases the risk of several pregnancy complications. These include placental problems, which increases the risk of bleeding during pregnancy and can result in miscarriage or maternal death. Ectopic pregnancy, when the baby grows outside the womb is another possibility.
Miscarriage – Smoking during pregnancy can affect the growth of the baby. If the developing baby in the womb gets rejected, it may not allow the baby to survive and result in a still-birth. Also, there is a risk of death of the baby in the womb or miscarriage.
Pre-term labour – Early labour is another major health risk of smoking while pregnant. The baby is not fully developed if born prematurely and needs special medical assistance for survival.
Low birth weight babies – Babies born to mothers who are exposed to smoke are at risk of having low birth weight. This is possible because of poor oxygen supply and nutrition passed on to the baby in the womb. Babies who weigh less or are small for their age can have several health problems.
Birth defects – One of the major dangers of smoking during pregnancy is the possibility of birth defects. Smoking during pregnancy can cause disability and may require great efforts for correction. Orofacial clefts, cleft lip and cleft palate affect feeding, speech and overall development. Some birth defects can severely affect the baby’s health.
Long-term health complications – Children born to mothers who smoked while pregnant have a higher risk of developing childhood asthma. In addition, maternal smoking during pregnancy is a risk factor for early childhood obesity. Smoking during pregnancy is also associated with behavioural problems for the child like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and conduct problems.
A woman’s diet and lifestyle choices play an important role during pregnancy. In fact, the initial weeks of pregnancy are most crucial for the baby’s early growth and brain development. Hence, it is advisable to quit smoking much before you plan your pregnancy. This would be the best for you and your baby.
Pregnancy and Second Hand/ Passive Smoking
The responsibility of carrying a healthy baby is not entirely of the lady carrying the baby. People around them too have to be responsible. Many women are exposed to second-hand smoke, when their partners, family or friends smoke. Second-hand smoke, which is released when someone near you smokes, also releases harmful chemicals. It too can have a negative impact on the health of the mother and the baby.
Some problems associated with second-hand smoke include increased risk of miscarriages, intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), pre-term deliveries and delivering low birth weight babies, babies born with learning disabilities or behavioural problems. Certain studies have shown that toddlers born to mothers exposed to second-hand smoke scored less in intellectual development than those from smoke-free families.
Second-hand smoke can be equally dangerous for a pregnant woman, as it also increases the chances of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). This is a condition, in which the newborn babies may surprisingly die when they are sleeping. Statistics show that infants whose mothers smoke during pregnancy are three times more likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome than are babies whose mothers do not smoke during pregnancy.
Pregnant women can also get exposed to third-hand smoke from the residue that lingers in the room, on clothes or furniture long after smoking is over. It is important to avoid that too, to keep the harmful effects of the smoke at bay.
How Quitting Smoking during Pregnancy Helps?
It’s the best to quit smoking before you conceive to protect your health and pregnancy. By quitting smoking during pregnancy, you save yourself and your baby from many harmful gases and chemicals. It will reduce the risk of pregnancy complications, miscarriage, preterm births, SIDS and low birth weight babies. Periodic antenatal checkups are an important part of pregnancy, as the health parameters of both the would-be mother and the child are to be monitored regularly. For smokers, this need of antenatal care and checkups becomes paramount and covers many more test and monitoring than a non-smokers pregnancy.
As a part of your family planning, make sure you and your partner quit smoking. The toxic substances in it are affecting two lives: yours and your baby. You sure don’t want to take any chances when it’s about your baby. Remember, when you breathe smoke and chemicals, your baby gets harmful substances, whereas when you breathe fresh air, your baby gets healthy nutrients.
So, quit smoking and enjoy a healthy pregnancy!