Smoking cigarettes or tobacco is an unhealthy habit that is hard to break because of nicotine addiction. If pregnant women do not quit smoking, it can cause a great threat to the health of both the mother and the unborn child by increasing the risk of developing complications like stillbirth, preterm birth, and a miscarriage. Not only active smoking, but passive smoking or second hand smoke can also pose a threat to the fetus.
There are about 4,000 chemicals (including carbon monoxide, nicotine, and tar) present in cigarette smoke that enters the lungs and mix with the blood of the mother. These harmful chemicals in the blood can increase the heart rate of the mother. Moreover, some of these chemicals can also reach the developing fetus through the placenta. There they can prevent the adequate supply of oxygen to the baby, thereby hampering its growth and development. Thus smoking cessation is the best thing to do if a woman wants to get pregnant for protecting the baby’s health at the time of pregnancy and even after birth.
Dangers of smoking while pregnant:
Stillbirth and miscarriage: Typically, in the first three months of pregnancy, if the mother loses her unborn child, it is known as a miscarriage. Rarely, the mother might lose a child after 20 weeks of gestation, called a stillbirth or intrauterine fetal death. The dangerous chemicals in smoke can increase the likelihood of miscarriage or stillbirth. These could cause problems with the placenta or slow fetal development.
Placental abruption: The pregnant woman possesses a placenta that acts as a lifeline between the mother and the fetus as it supplies oxygen and nutrients to the baby inside the womb. The chemicals of smoke can cause the placenta to detach from the uterus before childbirth, known as placental abruption. It can lead to severe bleeding that can be fatal for both mother and the unborn child. There is no surgery or any treatment that can reconnect the placenta, only immediate medical attention might save lives.
Ectopic pregnancy: In this condition, the fertilized egg gets implanted outside the uterus i.e. either in the abdomen or in the fallopian tube of the woman. It has been found that nicotine present in tobacco smoke can cause contractions inside the fallopian tube that prevent the passing of the embryo through it, resulting in ectopic pregnancy. The only way to avoid the life-threatening complications caused to the mother is to remove the embryo.
Premature birth: According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, it has been reported that smoking during pregnancy can result in the early birth of a child or an underdeveloped baby. Such preterm births do possess numerous health risks such as mental disability, behavioral and learning issues, hearing and visual impairments, and life-threatening complications.
Placenta previa: Normally, the placenta remains in the uterus at the top of the mother’s womb so that cervix is left open for delivery. In the case of placenta previa, the placenta grows in the lower portion of the uterus, thereby fully or partially covering the cervix. This results in tearing of the placenta and excessive bleeding which makes the fetus deprived of oxygen and vital nutrients. Smoking is a risk factor for this condition.
Birth defects: Smoking could result in the baby being born with congenital heart defects, cleft palate, and cleft lip.
Low birth weight: The mother who is a smoker may deliver a small baby or a baby with low birth weight. This could lead to serious health problems and disabilities. These include vision and hearing problems, delay in the development of the newborn, and cerebral palsy. In extreme cases, the low birth weight of a child may be fatal for it.
Respiratory issues: Cigarette smoking can lead to serious pulmonary conditions like asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. This is because the smoke enters the lungs and cause damage to the airways and also the alveoli (air sacs) found inside the lungs.
Sudden infant death syndrome: The death of the newborn is possible because of smoking. This is because the mucosal surfaces of the lungs can have a passive coating of the harmful smoke components that enhance the binding of the bacteria and viruses to it and increase the susceptibility of having a life-threatening microbial infection.
Smoking can cause huge risks for everyone. It is important to stop the consumption of tobacco to ensure healthy and long life.
Stay Safe & Healthy!