Pregnancy facts

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In Britain, although a third of female smokers give up during pregnancy, a whopping 24% of women continue to smoke.

There is no getting away from it. Every cigarette a woman smokes while she is pregnant has a direct, negative effect on her baby’s growth and development.

If a woman continues to smoke (or is exposed to second hand smoke) during pregnancy she increases the risk of:

Miscarriage and bleeding. Women who smoke have a miscarriage rate that is twice as high as that of women who don’t smoke.
Increased likelihood for fallopian infection and tubal (ectopic) pregnancies.
Higher incidence of genetic defects for babies whose mothers smoke (or are exposed to second hand smoke) while they are in the womb.
Placenta praevia (where the placenta covers the cervix) and abruptio placenta (where the placenta comes away from the uterine walls abruptly and so the baby is unable to receive oxygen). As the placenta spreads itself further and further within the uterus in an attempt to gain a greater surface area from which to draw nutrients and oxygen, it becomes thinner which increases the risks of placenta previa and placental abruption.
Low birth weight – the combination of carbon monoxide poisoning and the decreased oxygen levels (through placenta) retard the baby’s growth. On average, babies born to smokers weigh 8 ounces less than those born to non-smokers. Smaller babies are more vulnerable to infections and other diseases.
Premature birth – the baby’s struggle to get food and oxygen in the womb can cause the body to feel that the baby can no longer be fed properly. This can lead to premature rupture of the membranes and to premature labour.
Babies whose mothers continued to smoke during pregnancy are more likely to suffer from apnea (breathing lapses) and twice as likely to die of cot death (i.e. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
One study showed that at age 14 the children of smokers were more likely to have a respiratory illness, to be shorter than other children and to be less successful at school.

FACT: babies born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy have the same levels of a nicotine byproduct in their blood as an adult smoker does and in the first days of their lives they can experience intense withdrawal symptoms.

That said, if someone close to you is pregnant and trying to give up smoking don’t just hit them over the head with these facts. Smoking is a darned powerful addiction (many scientists now suggest that it’s akin to heroin or cocaine addiction) and so really what may be required is a lot of support and encouragement.

 

GOOD NEWS

Some studies suggest that women who quit early on in the pregnancy (before the fourth month) can bring the risk of damage to the baby right down to the levels of a non-smoking woman.  So, the sooner a woman quits the better.  

 
 

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Last modified: August 04, 2000