You’ve just got the test results back and it’s official - you’re pregnant. Everyone is congratulating you, I'm sure. For many, getting pregnant can be a difficult process while others carry the moniker, “fertile myrtle”. But it has finally happened to you or perhaps it was a complete surprise. Maybe you weren’t planning on a child just yet. Maybe, you wanted to travel the world or sow some of those proverbial oats before you started adding to your family. Maybe, you heard that smoking and pregnancy don't mix or perhaps you heard that smoking during pregnancy was overblown.
Let's face it, there are many female smokers who get pregnant. In fact, up to 30% of pregnant women smoke. Interestingly, studies show that only 25% of women who do smoke, will stop at any point during their pregnancy. I find this amazing, since smoking has such profoundly negative effects on the baby and the pregnant mom. So now you know that those rumors saying smoking during pregnancy was overblown were completely false.
A lot of my patients were surprised to hear that smoking and pregnancy was a dangerous combination. That always amazed me for some reason. I think many of them just took it for granted or were in denial over the situation. Everyone knows smoking causes emphysema, cancer and cardiovascular disease, right? But for some reason, there is a disconnect between smoking and pregnancy. Those who want to quit, find it difficult enough, without having to concern themselves with what impact the potential stop smoking aids might have on their child.
Where does the danger come from? Well, nicotine is easily transmitted through the mother’s bloodstream to their baby. It's also carried in the mother’s breast milk while nursing. So what are these negative effects anyway? Just how much harm is done to the child when the mom is smoking during pregnancy?
First of all, women who smoke may find it difficult to get pregnant to begin with. So if you’ve been trying to get pregnant with no success, try stopping smoking. It may be that simple. Okay, now what about the woman who was able to become pregnant while smoking?
Well, women who smoke have smaller, lighter babies. Any woman who has gone through a pregnancy can tell you how worried their OB/GYN is about the baby gaining weight. Weight gain of the child in utero is the primary indicator of fetal health and development. Babies born to smoking moms are typically smaller and weigh on average less than 5 and a half pounds. They may also be smaller because they are born prematurely or too early. Babies born too early, may have physical or developmental challenges. Premature babies have a greater risk for cerebral palsy, learning difficulties and even death. Moreover, babies born to tobacco smoking women are two to three times more likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
The negative side effects aren't just limited to the baby. Women who smoke have a greater risk of bleeding during their deliveries. This is obviously bad for the baby and extremely hazardous to the mom. So, this should be enough to scare any woman into quitting smoking before pregnancy, or at least, very early in the first trimester. But the simple fact is, very few are motivated to quit. Either the physician doesn’t explain the benefits well enough or the woman simply doesn’t feel like she can quit. To compound these facts, more and more women smoke. At the turn of the century in the year 2000, we saw for the first time in our history, the death rate in women from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exceed that of men. Not a big deal you say, well COPD is almost exclusively caused by smoking. In fact, it is one of the single most preventable diseases in the world; if people would just stop smoking.
We need to educate every woman about the dangers of smoking during pregnancy. The health benefits are very real to the mom, as well as, the child. Nobody wants their children to start life with a couple of strikes against them which is exactly what smoking during pregnancy will do. These are not made up facts or statistics and nobody is trying to stomp on your rights. So, if you won't stop smoking for your kid, then stop for you. You know it's bad for you, so use this opportunity to quit for you. Get with your doctor to find out which stop smoking aids can be used and decide to stop. The doctor is sure to congratulate you on deciding that smoking and pregnancy do not mix.