Smoking while pregnant is a serious health risk not only for the the unborn but also for the expecting mother. Different surveys that have been conducted in different societies show that smoking during pregnancy is mainly associated with younger women of reproductive age. Further, it is also more prevalent in poorer communities more than its prevalent in well-to-do communities.
Women who are pregnant are encouraged to immediately stop smoking as soon as they conceive. In fact it is more welcome to quit smoking even before one falls pregnant but once the decision to fall pregnant has been reached. There have been some deceptive tobacco products that have given some pregnant women a false impression that smoking while pregnant can be harmless when one smokes those particular cigarettes.
Causes Low birth weight, Stillbirth, Obesity, Preterm delivery and more
In particular this has been the case with tobacco products labeled low nicotine or low tar. In reality and according to scientific studies these types of tobacco cigarettes does nothing to make smoking safer let alone making smoking during pregnancy any healthier. The ultimate solution and recommended cause of action when pregnant is to quit smoking. This can be achieved more effectively using a variety of available quit smoking products that usually come with stop smoking programs.
There are a variety of medical effects that are associated with smoking during pregnancy;
Low Birth Weight
Whilst there are many different possible causes of low birth weight, smoking while pregnant is amongst the well known causes of low birth weight. Other causes include alcohol and illicit drug use during pregnancy, mother sexual infections and birth defects amongst many others. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services report of May 2004, pregnant women smoking during pregnancy have double the risk of low birth weight babies compared to non-smoking expecting women.
Things can get really complicated as a result of low birth weight. Some babies may go on to have serious developmental difficulties which may even become permanent mental retardation. Sight might be lost as well as ability to hear. The effects of smoking while pregnant are therefore apparent. These are the sobering dangers of smoking for pregnant mothers.
Stillbirth represents a total loss. Whilst there are also other factors that may lead to a stillbirth, it has long been establish that tobacco use plays a significant role. By definition, to avoid confusion, a stillbirth is considered one when a fetus dies in-between the 20th week of pregnancy and birth. This usually occurs due to what doctors call placental abruption. In this case the placenta tears off the wall of the uterus immediately depriving the fetus of precious oxygen needed to live.
As mentioned doctors point to smoking and alcohol consumption during pregnancy as very important risk factors. It is so serious so much that the risk of placental abruption which results in stillbirth is increased by as much as 50% when a pregnant woman decided to smoke or continue smoking while pregnant.
The following is even more worrying even for mothers who have no intention to smoke during pregnancy. According to the medical journal Pediatrics passive smoking also known more commonly as second hand smoking increases the risk of a stillbirth by as much as 23%. Passive smoking also increases the risk of birth defects by some 13%.
Caution should therefore come first in line were a pregnant women spends time in the company of smoking associates or family members be at work or at home. The greatest danger in the western world is at home and in social circles as most workplaces have banned smoking according to smoking legislation. Most smoking laws do not regulate tobacco use in private homes.
Medically preterm birth can be said to be spontaneous or medically indicated. According to scientific study done by different reputable organizations including Vanderbilt University Medical Center Institute for Global Health based in Nashville, Tennessee smoking while pregnant has a role to play in both spontaneous and medically indicated preterm births. By definition preterm can be said to be very preterm when the baby arrives at less than 33 weeks or preterm when gestation is at less than 37 weeks.
Statistically speaking, the results of studies showed that smoking while pregnant women have a 24% greater risk for very preterm, 23% greater risk for spontaneous preterm birth and 28% greater risk for medically indicated preterm birth compared to their non smoking counterparts.
Premature Rupture Of Membranes
This is when the pregnant woman’s water breaks during the early stages of labor usually just after the very first stage of labor. Tobacco smoking is one of the risk factors apart from infections that might be passed to the pregnant woman sexually as well as labor. In this case membranes may weaken due to coming labor and waters break.
Associated with painless virginal bleeding, placenta previa is when the placenta partially overshadows the cervix. Your placenta becomes too close to the cervix. It places both mother and baby at risk of death. One of the main risk factors that have been associated with placenta previa is tobacco use. Cigarette smoking pregnant women are at greater risk.
What exactly cigarette smoking does is to negatively affect the levels of oxygen passed to the unborn. This impacts negatively the growth of the placenta increasing the risk of it overshadowing the uterus.
Interesting associations have been observed between obesity and overweight in children whose mothers smoked during their pregnancy. Studies are showing that smoking while pregnant increases the risk of kids becoming obese in the first five years of life. In fact generally there has been an upsurge in childhood obesity. This increases the risk of heart disease and hypertension even amongst children.
Researchers believe why children whose mothers smoked in pregnancy become obese or overweight is a matter of what they have termed catch-up growth in the first years of life. Scientifically, smoking has been shown to suppress growth leading to low weight babies as explained above. It follows that some of the low weight babies tend to catch-up for the lost time whilst in the womb thereby gaining excess weight.
Other effects of smoking during pregnancy relate to cancer. In January 2009 researchers in Australia made headlines suggesting that your smoking during pregnancy heightened the risk of your child developing life threatening cancer. Your child will have an increased chance of developing leukemia, cancer of the brain or central nervous system, eye cancer and kidney cancer.
Smoking While Pregnant Causes
As to the reasons why pregnant women smoke during pregnancy studies, as mentioned earlier, have identified that women who smoke while pregnant are younger and come from a poor socioeconomic status. It looks likely that the high prevalence of smoking in pregnancy has to do with access to information and lack of general education around the specific effects of tobacco on both the mother and the unborn.
Stress is also an important factor to consider in as far as causes of smoking during pregnancy are concerned. Some women suffer stress due to unexpected pregnancy, dejection and rejection by partners resulting in smoking and drinking as a preferred method of handling stress. All the same the effects on the mother and the fetus can be devastating as discussed above.