The truth about smoking and pregnancy

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“As you know, my husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for months,” my friend said. It was December and the two of us were sitting outside of Wine Connection talking about our families and futures. Everything about this scenario was normal except for one detail: My friend was smoking a cigarette. Noticing my inadvertent look, she smiled a little sheepishly. “I guess I’ll have to cut that out, huh? I’ll wait until I see the little pink line on that test though–a few cigarettes until then won’t do any harm.”

The truth about smoking and pregnancy

It was one of those rare moments where I wasn’t sure what to say. I don’t like to come across as judgemental, but at the same time I know just how dangerous smoking or breathing secondhand smoke during pregnancy is. And I also know that people still do it. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) claims that roughly 13 percent of women smoke during their last trimester.

I also know that quitting is never as easy as we’d like to think. Though I was never a regular smoker, I had borrowed cigarettes periodically over the years. I always thought it was a mild, fairly benign vice, something to quit when I was a little bit older or wiser.

It wasn’t until my husband and I started talking about having kids that I got a reality check. A little research and a talk with my doctor confirmed just how serious an issue this is. Here are some of the negative effects smoking can have:

Infertility. Yes, even before you get pregnant, smoking can cause complications. Both women and men who smoke or are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke have a much higher risk of infertility. In other words, there’s no time like the present to quit.

Low birth weight and premature birth. Smoking doubles your chance of delivering a baby under 2.5 kilograms, which puts them at risk for mental disabilities, hearing or vision problems, cerebral palsy and even death.

Birth defects. Congenital heart defects, cleft lips, cleft palates are all 20 to 70 percent more likely in a newborn from a mother who smokes. These defects can range from cosmetic to life-threatening and all have the potential to profoundly impact the child’s quality of life.

Placenta previa. This condition, which occurs in approximately 0.5 percent of births, happens when the placenta fully or partially blocks the cervix before birth. This leads to excessive bleeding as the placenta tears and can deprive the baby of vital oxygen and nutrients for a dangerously long time. Smoking is the leading cause of this phenomenon.

Placental abruption. This occurs when the placenta separates from the uterus before birth, inducing blood loss and threatening the life of both the mother and unborn child.

Ectopic pregnancy. This nightmarish complication is up to five times as likely in smokers. It occurs when an egg is fertilized outside of the uterus. The embryo must then be surgically removed in order to save the mother’s life.

Stillbirth or miscarriage. The 4,000-plus chemicals in cigarette smoke can double the risk of stillbirth and dramatically increase that of miscarriage.

Photo Credit: Plekser via Compfight cc

ExpectingExpats.com

Expecting Expats is the online resource for parents in and around Thailand.

We provide lifestyle and medical content to our visitors, with new content posted daily. Our lifestyle contributors are themselves expat moms who share their experiences and lessons learned through blog articles. We also provide medical content from our partner doctors at Samitivej Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. Articles of interest span from before pregnancy through the toddler years and cover medical, behavioral and cognitive issues.

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