It is shocking to see pregnant women who smoke. It is hard to imagine that a woman can put the health of her child in danger. And yet it happens. Many smokers believe that “it’s just a cigarette. What could be so bad?” Yet experts warn us that smoking during pregnancy is extremely harmful for both mother and child. Abnormal development, malformations, respiratory diseases such as pneumonia or asthma are just some of the negative effects that smoking can have on the child of a smoker.
Cigarette smoke contains at least 2,500 chemicals. Although many of them are harmful, the main “enemy” is carbon dioxide. It prevents proper blood circulation, thus resulting in poor oxygenation.
The substances introduced into the mother’s organism cause lower oxygen levels in the blood. The vessels of the uterus and placenta (the organ that connects mother and baby, supplying the fetus with nutrients and oxygen) are narrowed because of these substances.
Also, if you want to get pregnant, you should know that smoking can hinder your desire to become a mother. In the process of fetal development, the baby is exposed to the harmful effects of tobacco, acting like a passive smoker.
First of all, his chances of being conceived are diminished if one of the partners smokes. Fertility is much lower in smokers. Then, if conception occurs, the risks of ectopic pregnancies are higher than in nonsmokers. The risk of miscarriage is also increased, as is that of death in uterus.
Research has found that that the incidence of malformations is higher in fetuses subjected to the toxins in cigarette smoke. Their risk of being born prematurely is higher. Children born to smoking mothers often weigh less, are more susceptible to various respiratory diseases (pneumonia, asthma etc.), and some studies even show the presence of psychiatric and behavioral dysfunctions.
A recent study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry shows that there is a connection between smoking during pregnancy and an increased risk for developing bipolar disorder (BD) in adult children. The study was conducted at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and the Department of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, under a team of scientists at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California. They administered the tests to the children of a large group of pregnant women who participated in the Child Health and Development Study (CHDS) during 1959-1966. The study used 79 cases and 654 comparison subjects and the tests concluded that smoking during pregnancy is associated with a twofold increased risk of BD in offspring.
“These findings underscore the value of ongoing public health education on the potentially debilitating, and largely preventable, consequences that smoking may have on children over time”, stated Alan Brown, MD, MPH, senior author and Professor of Clinical Psychiatry and Epidemiology at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, Columbia University and Mailman School of Public Health.
And yet, smokers need not despair: early cessation of smoking during pregnancy increases the baby’s chances at being healthy.
Of course, along with a strong will, it is necessary to have the support of one’s partner and one’s family, as they should encourage the pregnant woman to be aware of temptations. Pregnancy is a good time for both partners to quit smoking, in order to sustain the great effort needed to annihilate this addiction.
Passive smoking is equally harmful for you and your baby. Therefore, try to avoid places where people smoke as much as possible during your pregnancy, and ask family and friends who smoke to stop smoking around you.