Effects of smoking during pregnancy

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Effects of smoking during pregnancy
((c) Lynda Bernhardt)

Many people wonder about the effects of smoking during pregnancy. Packs of cigarettes contain a generic warning that smoking during pregnancy can be dangerous, but the warning does not specify the many serious health risks that can result. Women who choose to smoke during pregnancy put their unborn babies at great risk, and the health consequences can be lifelong challenges for the child.


Smoking during pregnancy is dangerous for the growing foetus. The cigarette smoke deprives the foetus of needed oxygen, which can affect the development of the foetus. This is potentially damaging to the baby's heart and lungs. Smoking can deprive the baby of oxygen needed to survive the birth, resulting in a stillbirth. Smoking during pregnancy has also been linked to long-term health consequences that the child must manage throughout his life, such as asthma or congenital heart defects.


Babies born to women who smoked during the pregnancy run a higher risk of developing asthma. Asthma is a chronic illness with no cure. It can only be managed. The child might need to stay on year-round medication to ensure that she can breathe. Smoking during pregnancy has also been linked to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which is a condition that makes it difficult for the child to focus. Many children with ADHD need year-round medication in order have the ability to focus and control their impulses.


Smoking during pregnancy can affect the size of the foetus, causing the baby to be born prematurely or with a low birth weight. Babies born to smokers run a higher risk of dying during the birthing process. Many of these babies are born with larger heads proportionate to their bodies. This is because the body focuses upon providing enough oxygen to develop the brain at the expense of the limbs. The limbs catch up after the baby has better access to oxygen after birth. Low birthweight babies run a greater risk of developing a number of health issues.


Even if a woman has been smoking during the early parts of the pregnancy, stopping smoking will have a positive effect on the growing foetus. Stopping smoking before the third trimester greatly reduces the chances of giving birth to a low birthweight baby. Also, cutting down on the number of cigarettes smoked each day will potentially lessen the negative effects on the foetus.


Smoking during pregnancy causes the baby to be much more susceptible to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Even if the baby survives the birthing process and does not succumb to SIDS, the child might be faced with a lifetime of struggles, including asthma, ADHD and heart issues. These issues are challenging for both the child and the parent because, during childhood, the parent must manage all of the medications for these health issues. The baby pays a heavy price for the mother to smoke during the pregnancy.

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