Pregnancy is a phase in a woman’s life when it is essential for her to be as healthy as possible. A pregnant woman has to be concerned and responsible for the health and well being of both herself and her unborn baby. Doctors today are increasingly stressing upon the importance of prospective mother’s good health prior to conception. One such step towards better health involves quitting smoking even before becoming pregnant. When pregnant, giving up smoking is an absolute must.
The negative health consequences of smoking have been well documented. Smoking during pregnancy can seriously harm both the mother and the baby. One of the main reasons why doctors recommend total abstinence from smoking by pregnant mothers is that nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarettes are highly poisonous substances. They damage the placenta and reduce the amount of food and oxygen that reaches the baby. This raises the fetal heart rate leading to fetal distress. They also adversely affect the baby’s growth rate and development of the baby’s brain.
A woman who smokes during pregnancy has a much greater chance of spontaneous abortion or miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy or losing the baby through complications at birth. She is more likely to suffer from morning sickness and has increased risk of placental abruption which is very dangerous for the mother and baby.
Smoking by pregnant mothers can also cause congenital problems in babies. These arise from deficiencies of vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients at an early stage of fetal development. There is a greater risk of stillbirths in pregnant women who smoke. Babies that are born to such mothers are likely to be premature and have a low birth weight. On average, babies of smoker mothers are 200g (8oz) lighter than babies born to non-smoker mothers.
Such babies also run a greater risk of acquiring infections such as inflammation of the middle ear quickly. As they grow older, they develop health conditions that require frequent hospital treatments like asthma, bronchitis and frequent colds because their immune system is low and underdeveloped. Coronary heart diseases and type 2 diabetes are two common diseases that are linked to low birth weight.
Babies born to mothers who smoke during pregnancy are much more likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) than babies born to nonsmoker mothers. Mothers who smoke also pass nicotine onto their babies through their breast milk. There are many other long term ill effects of smoking on the development of children born to smokers. These include childhood allergies, high blood pressure, respiratory disorders and obesity.
It is extremely important for a woman to quit smoking before or during pregnancy. It is equally essential for her to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke. This will have a positive impact on the health of both the mother and the unborn baby as well as reduce the chances of related health problems for the child after birth.
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