By: Dr Jenny Tylee
In the United States more than 20 percent of women smoke and many of these women smoke while they are pregnant. Smoking can harm a woman’s health and smoking during pregnancy can lead to pregnancy complications and serious health problems in newborns. The more a pregnant woman smokes, the greater the risk to her baby. However, if a woman stops smoking by the end of her first trimester of pregnancy, she is no more likely to have a low birth weight baby than a woman who never smoked. Even stopping during the third trimester can still improve the baby’s growth.
The problems with smoking during pregnancy include:
• Risks to the baby
o Low birth weight (less than 2,500 grams) carries a range of grave health risks for children. Babies who were undernourished in the womb face a greatly increased risk of dying during their early months and years. Those who survive have impaired immune function and increased risk of disease; they are likely to remain undernourished, with reduced muscle strength, throughout their lives, and suffer a higher incidence of diabetes and heart disease in later life. Children born underweight also tend to have a lower IQ and cognitive disabilities, affecting their performance in school and their job opportunities as adults.
o Premature birth – less than 37 weeks of gestation.
o Miscarriage and stillbirths
o Learning and behaviour problems – associated with premature birth and low birth weight.
o Increased incidence of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)
o May undergo withdrawal-like symptoms. The babies appear to be more jittery and difficult to soothe than babies of non-smokers
o Suffer from more lower-respiratory illnesses (such as bronchitis and pneumonia) and ear infections than other babies.
o Some kinds of birth defects, particularly cleft lip and cleft palate (abnormalities of the mouth that need to be corrected by surgery).
• Pregnancy complications
o Placental problems – including placenta previa (low-lying placenta that covers part or all of the opening of the uterus) and placental abruption (in which the placenta peels away, partially or almost completely, from the uterine wall before delivery). Both can result in heavy bleeding during delivery that can endanger mother and baby.
o Premature rupture of the membranes (PROM) (when the sac inside the uterus that holds the baby breaks before labor begins). When this occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy it often results in the birth of a premature baby.
Smoking also affects the reproduction before a woman becomes pregnant. Smoker can have more trouble conceiving than non-smokers with fertility being 30% lower. However, fertility returns to normal after a woman stops smoking. Men also have fertility problems associated with smoking. They have:
• reduced ejaculation volume,
• a reduced sperm count,
• the sperm motility is impaired,
• increased sperm shape abnormalities and
• the sperm are less able to penetrate the ovum.
The sperm related problems can take three months to correct. It is suggested therefore that males quit smoking at least three months before trying to conceive.
The good news is that the problems in pregnancy can be overcome by quitting smoking. This is best undertaken before the pregnancy – but stopping at any stage during the pregnancy will have a benefit for the mother and baby. If you are pregnant or are wanting to become pregnant then now is the time to stop. Join growerz.com and get the assistance and support you need to successfully quit – for the sake of a healthy baby.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Smoking Cessation during Pregnancy. ACOG Educational Bulletin, number 260, September 2000.
- Law, K.L., et al. Smoking During Pregnancy and Newborn Neurobehavior. Pediatrics, volume 111, number 6, June 2003, pages 1318-1323.
- Martin, J.A., et al. Births: Final Data for 2002. National Vital Statistics Reports, volume 52, number 10, December 17, 2003.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General—2004. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office on Smoking and Health, Atlanta Georgia, May 2004.
- Wang, X., et al. Maternal Cigarette Smoking, Metabolic Gene Polymorphism, and Infant Birth Weight. Journal of the American Medical Association, volume 287, number 2, January 9, 2002, pages 195-202.
About the Author
Dr Jenny Tylee is an experienced health professional who encourages people to quit smoking. She owns Health Product Site safe colon cleansing.