Give Your Child a Smoke-Free Pregnancy
While most women in the United States understand the importance of prenatal check-ups, limited stress and good nutrition during pregnancy, the American Cancer Society reports that only 39 percent of women smokers quit smoking while pregnant. According to the Office of the Surgeon General, smoking is the most important modifiable cause of poor pregnancy outcomes among women in the United States. The effects of tobacco can do irreparable and lasting damage to the lungs, brain and blood of an unborn child and can cause dangerous conditions for the mother.
Smoking during pregnancy essentially starves a growing child of the food, oxygen and nutrients needed for healthy development – both physical and mental. Cigarette smoke carries toxins such as carbon monoxide, nicotine and cyanide into the baby’s blood stream, hindering the supply of blood to the fetus’ body and brain and the supply of oxygen and nutrients through the placenta. This lack of nourishment slows the baby’s growth and more than doubles the risk of serious complications for both mother and child.
Risks for the mother include:
- required caesarean delivery
- premature delivery
- ectopic pregnancy (in which the fetus grows inside a fallopian tube instead of the uterus)
Risks at birth for the child include:
- polycythemia (abnormal elevated red blood cell count)
- low birth weight – On average, babies of smokers are almost half a pound lighter than babies of non-smokers.
- cleft lip or palate
But the health risks for the child only multiply after birth. Because the nicotine is directly ingested by the child while in the womb, its effects are far more severe than those of environmental second-hand smoke. Smoking during pregnancy is one of the leading causes of illness, disability and death for infants.
As infants, children and later as adults, this group of children is more vulnerable to a variety of conditions:
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Asthma – Exposure to tobacco compromises the development of the fetus’ lungs, leading to an increased risk of asthma.
- Significant behavior problems including hyperactivity, anxiety, depression and antisocial behavior
- Lung cancer – Research has also found that NNK, a chemical found in nicotine that is linked to lung cancer, is able to cross the placenta and reach the fetus.
According to the American Cancer Society, even quitting the habit in mid-pregnancy can reduce the chances of tobacco-related illness in children by 17 to 26 percent. If you are pregnant and have unsuccessfully tried to quit or have considered quitting, consider the health of your child – and consider your reasons for quitting doubled.
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