Friday, September 13, 2013

The Results Of Smoking Cigarettes Throughout Pregnancy

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that about 13 percent of women smoke during the last three months of their pregnancies. Although you probably know that smoking can affect your unborn baby, you might be surprised to discover the severity of the damage that your smoking habit can cause your unborn baby, as well as to yourself.

The Facts

More than 2,500 chemicals are present in cigarette smoke. Although the degree to which these chemicals affect your unborn baby is still not clear, the March of Dimes states that carbon monoxide and nicotine both contribute to problems with your pregnancy and your unborn baby. According to Krisa Van Meurs, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine, carbon monoxide bonds with hemoglobin to form a molecule that decreases your unborn baby's likelihood of obtaining oxygen. Nicotine causes problems for your unborn baby by crossing through the placenta, where it can reach levels of toxicity greater than you yourself experience when you smoke.

Your Unborn Baby

The March of Dimes states that a woman who smokes during pregnancy is nearly twice as likely to give birth to an underweight baby (less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces). Similarly, your chances of giving birth prematurely are higher if you smoke during pregnancy. Low birth weight and prematurity increase your infant's chances of having other serious health problems, including cerebral palsy and mental retardation. Additionally, according to a study by the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, smoking right before you get pregnant and during your first trimester increases your baby's chances of having congenital heart defects.

Pregnancy Complications

According to the March of Dimes, women who smoke during pregnancy are twice as likely to experience certain pregnancy complications as women who don't. The most common pregnancy complications include placenta previa (the placenta covers part or all of the opening of the uterus) and placental abruption (the placenta detaches from the wall of the uterus prematurely). If you smoke during pregnancy, you also are more likely to experience the premature rupture of your membranes (your bag of water breaks before your 37th week of pregnancy), which could lead to your baby being born prematurely.

Your Baby After Birth

If you smoke during pregnancy, your baby may experience side effects after birth as well, including reduced lung capacity, withdrawal symptoms and an increased likelihood of sudden infant death syndrome, better known as SIDS. Frequently, babies of women who smoked during pregnancy exhibit excessive jitteriness and agitation, which makes them harder to soothe and comfort. Additionally, SIDS, the unexpected death of a seemingly healthy infant during sleep, is three times more likely if you smoked during pregnancy, according to the March of Dimes.


Although you may think that your unborn baby can only be hurt by your direct smoking, think again. Secondhand smoke (smoke from another person's cigarette that you inhale) can also potentially affect your unborn baby's health. For instance, even if secondhand smoke is your only exposure to the harmful chemicals in smoke, you are 20 percent more likely than other women to give birth to a low birth weight baby, according to the CDC.

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