While neither smoking nor high blood pressure are safe for your baby, some doctors agree that they’d rather have a pregnant patient with high blood pressure than a pregnant patient who can’t quit smoking. Though undesirable and dangerous to both a woman and her fetus, high blood pressure can be treated with medication. The effects of smoking, however, are impossible to mitigate.
Why is smoking dangerous for my baby?
Cigarettes contain more than 4,000 chemicals. These include cyanide, lead, butane, arsenic, and ammonia, to name a few. These chemicals, when smoked, enter your bloodstream. The bloodstream is your baby’s only source of oxygen and nutrients, and therefore the chemicals are passed on to the developing fetus.
Worse than chemicals being passed on to your developing baby, however, are the effects that carbon monoxide and nicotine have on a fetus. Nicotine and carbon monoxide are responsible for almost all complications and birth defects caused by smoking, including stillbirth and premature delivery.
Why is nicotine and carbon monoxide so harmful to my baby?
When nicotine and carbon monoxide enter your bloodstream, they severely limit your baby’s access to oxygen. Nicotine acts as a vasoconstrictor, which decreases the size of your blood vessels, including the blood vessels that supply the baby’s umbilical cord. Further, having carbon monoxide in the blood reduces your red blood cells’ ability to carry oxygen. Both factors combine to deprive your baby of the rich supply of oxygen needed for healthy development.
How will smoking affect my baby?
Smoking can have many affects on your baby. The most common are low birth weight, premature delivery, and stillbirth. Low birth weight can lead to underdeveloped lungs, heart, and brain, which can have lasting effect on your child’s health. Babies of mothers who smoke are:
- 2-3 times more likely to die of sudden infant death syndrome
- More likely to have a heart defect
- More likely to have congenital heart disease
- More likely to have learning disorders and low IQs
- More likely to have deformities, such as a cleft palate or cleft lip
- More likely to be arrested as adults
- More likely to be repeat offenders as adults.
Should I be concerned about secondhand smoke?
If you don’t smoke during pregnancy, you are making the best choice for you and your baby. It’s important to also be aware of secondhand smoke, however. A recent study showed a 23% increase in stillbirths when non-smoking mothers were exposed to secondhand smoke at work or at home. Protect yourself and your baby by avoiding all exposure to first and secondhand smoke while pregnant.
How do I quit smoking?
If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant but addicted to cigarettes, quitting is the wise choice. While it may be difficult, it’s much better than risking having our child’s life and development.
Even knowing these frightening statistics, however, does not make quitting easy. There are many ways to quit smoking, and we suggest you talk to your doctor about quitting to find the best plan for you. It is best to involve your family and friends in your decision and join a support group if possible.
I’m pregnant and have been smoking. Is it too late to quit?
No, it’s never too late to quit. Even quitting a couple months before your due date will increase your baby’s oxygen and help him or her put on a little more weight.
I only smoke one cigarette a day. Is this dangerous?
You’d be surprised that even you if you smoke just 1 or 2 cigarettes a day, the effect on your baby’s oxygen is enough to cause a lot of damage. The best thing for your baby is to quit smoking altogether.
Do you have questions for Dr. Morice? Contact our office at (985) 702-BABY or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment. We are here to keep you and your baby healthy.