Everyone by now knows that smoking is bad for your health. The consequences become even worse if you are smoking while you are pregnant. If your own health is not enough reason to make you quit, the health of your unborn child should be.
When you smoke during pregnancy, you affect your baby’s health and this can have long-term effects. All the poisons that get into your body when you smoke tobacco travel through the blood stream directly to the baby. The baby suffers both during the pregnancy and after birth, and this can continue throughout the child’s life.
The best gift you can give your unborn child is to quit smoking even before you conceive. This will not only make it easier to get pregnant, you can concentrate on enhancing your health during the pregnancy. You will also avoid putting your child’s life at risk. Research has shown that those who quit smoking during the first trimester of pregnancy can improve their chances of getting a healthy, fully developed baby. Smoking affects the baby in several ways.
1. Size and weight
When you smoke during pregnancy, you risk getting a baby who is small and underweight. There is a shortage of oxygen to the baby and this can have devastating effects on the growth and development. The baby is not getting all the necessary nutrients, which affects development. Smoking increases the chances of the baby weighing less than 5 pounds at birth. A baby whose growth is stunted in the womb can experience negative consequences lasting a lifetime.
2. Underdeveloped lungs
Babies who are undersize usually have underdeveloped bodies. For many of these babies, the lungs are not fully developed at birth and they have difficulty functioning. These babies have to be attached to a respirator for days or weeks after birth. When they start breathing on their own, the babies can experience respiratory problems for a long time and they can even develop asthma and other conditions. They are also more likely to experience SIDS or sudden infant death syndrome.
3. Heart defects
When a pregnant woman smokes in the first trimester, the child is more likely to have a heart defect at birth. Studies have shown that babies who are born of smoking mothers have a 20- 70% higher chance of getting congenital heart defects, than those born of non-smoking mothers. Some of the heart defects include obstruction of flow of blood to the lungs from the right side of the heart. Many of these children will require surgery to correct the defects, if they are to live normal lives.
4. Brain function
Women who smoke during pregnancy risk affecting the child’s brain development. The habit can have lifelong effects on the child’s brain and many of them develop learning disorders. Children born of women who smoked when pregnant are also more likely to have low IQs and behavioral problems. They are also likely to pick up the smoking habit themselves.
Every cigarette smoked during pregnancy increases the risk to the baby. While those who smoke a pack a day do the most harm to the child, those who smoke a few cigarettes also affect their baby’s health. The moment you smoke the first cigarette of the day, your blood vessels tighten instantly, and this affects the baby. Cutting down on the cigarettes you smoke might not have much effect, you need to quit altogether and the sooner you quit the better.
The moment you quit smoking, the baby begins to receive adequate oxygen and there is a marked improvement in the weight and growth rate. This is enough of an incentive to throw away the cigarettes. Admittedly, quitting smoking is not always easy. While there are women who have managed to quit cold turkey, many struggle to quit even when they know the dangers to the unborn child. The urge to smoke can override all good intentions to protect the child.
If you are struggling to quit, you should not hesitate to get help. Talk to your doctor and look for support from other sources. This might be the most important thing you ever do so it is worth doing well. Your child is counting on you!
Learn more about the health-related effects of pregnancy and best practices to carry out, on this website: www.insulinfree.org