Despite the perceived continuous drop in the number of smokers in the general population, the same cannot be said with women smoking during pregnancy. Based on a recent National Household Survey on Drug Abuse about a third of women in the reproductive age regularly smoke.
The figures based on five surveys conducted in the United States reveal that the extent of smoking during pregnancy in urban regions is around 22% to 30%. Statistically, the number of heavy smoker pregnant women has substantially increased during the past decade.
In Canada, 57% of heavy smokers are female while 31% are male. In the context of smoking during pregnancy, this figure represents a heightened risk for both mother and baby. Maternal smoking essentially impedes fetal development that can lead to a number of pregnancy complications as well as after birth defects.
It is also significant to note that smoking during pregnancy can lead not only to potential health problems but also a number of physical, mental, and emotional complications as well.
Indulging in Cigarette Smoking During Pregnancy
When pregnant women continue to indulge in cigarette smoking during pregnancy it causes harmful effects in the development process of the baby.
It is also responsible for exposing the baby to potentially dangerous chemicals like tar, nicotine, and carbon monoxide among others. Exposure to about 4,000 different types of chemicals goes contrary to the goalof establishing healthy pregnancy.
Indulging cigarette smoking during pregnancy basically lessens the amount of oxygen that is distributed to the baby. Needless to say, oxygen is one of the primary components in the development of the fetus to a healthy baby. Moreover, smoking during pregnancy damages the lungs of the baby prior to birth including other potential side effectslike:
1. Learning disabilities
2. A.D.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder) or A.D.H.D. (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
3. Behavior disorders and hyperactivity
4. Increased conduct disorders
5.Severe behavioral problems
6. Brain cell damage
7.Reduced auditory processing
Smoking and Drinking While Pregnant
Unfortunately, many pregnant women are not content with just smoking during pregnancy. Many of them combine an equally damaging habit, alcohol drinking. This can potentially result in fetal alcohol syndrome aside from the established effectsof smoking.
For many women smoking and drinking are habits acquired prior to pregnancy and used to deal with everyday anxiety. What many pregnant women fail to realize is that continued smoking and drinking while pregnant heightens pregnancy complications like:
1. Vaginal bleeding
2. Ectopic pregnancy
3. Placenta previa
4. Placental abruption
Moreover, babies that are born to women that continue drinking and smoking during pregnancy are likely born:
1. With defects like cleft palate or lip
2.At low birth weight
4. Underweight based on the weeks of pregnancy
Keep in mind that premature and low birth weight babies face higher risk of serious health problems that can include lifelong disabilities like mental retardation or cerebral palsy and in worse cases even death.
Healthy Pregnancy and Smoking
Sometimes when people talk about smoking during pregnancy, they tend to forget that this deals with more than just maternal smoking. Generally, this topic should also cover secondhand and thirdhand smoke that can result in comparatively the same or even worse effects on the development of the baby.
In this aspect, it is important to define secondhand and thirdhand smoke in the context of achieving healthy pregnancy. Secondhand smoke basically happens when the pregnant woman inhales the smoke from someone else.
The dangers established with this type of condition affects not only babies in the womb but extend to young children as well. When babies are exposed to secondhand smoke they:
- Are born at low birth weight
- Are likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
- Experience slow lung growth and development
- Face greater risk of contracting bronchitis, asthma, ear infections, respiratory symptoms, and pneumonia among others
Thirdhand smoke is a relatively new health hazard which results from toxic gases and particles that remain after cigar or cigarette smoking. In the context of smoking during pregnancy, these toxins can include carbon monoxide, lead, and arsenic which can cling to the hair, clothes, carpets, and couches even after smoke has cleared the room.
Breathing in these toxins has lingering and devastating effects in terms of healthy pregnancy.
Effects of Exercise and Smoking During Pregnancy
Many pregnant women find it difficult to give up smoking during pregnancy. Fortunately, it has been established that exercise can play a vital role in the quest to quit smoking. Pregnant women who exercise during pregnancy can have a higher success rate in kicking the habit. Moreover, exercise during pregnancy also poses other benefits like:
- Reduces stress and depression during pregnancy
- Increases stamina
- Improved feeling of well-being and health
- Eliminating pregnancy weight gain
- Improving sleep allowing for healthy pregnancy
- Better food choices and eating habits
Coping with Stress and Pregnancy
For many pregnant women, smoking during pregnancy is used to justify coping up with stress and pregnancy. However, it has been convincingly established that there are more practical and healthy ways to do this.
There is a possibility when you quit smoking that your stress level will substantially increase. This however does not mean that you should continue smoking during pregnancy. One of the best ways to cope with this is to exercise during pregnancy to replace your dependence on cigarettes.
Other justifications used by pregnant women for smoking during pregnancy also include fighting off depression during pregnancy. A better alternative though is to increase your state of relaxation or consult a therapist.
Some pregnant women believe that smoking helps them to counteract heartburn during pregnancy supposedly because it aids in their digestion. A healthier way would be to practice better eating habits like eating smaller meals more frequently which also helps to attain healthy pregnancy.
In general, it has long been established that smoking during pregnancy or even when not pregnant is harmful to anyone’s health. In consideration for the health of the baby, it would be better to give up this habit. Keep in mind that whatever practical or impractical reason there is for continuing smoking during pregnancy is not worth the life of your baby.