Nicotine addiction is probably one of the worst self invented ill that is affecting millions of human beings across the globe. Smoking during pregnancy multiplies the ill effects of this menace manifold with health implications both for the mother as well as the child.
Recent research indicates that smoking during pregnancy is the single largest factor for health disorders in new born and the chances of deformity in the babies is alarmingly high for those mothers who smoke during pregnancy. During pregnancy both the carrying mother and the evolving child go through an extremely delicate and vulnerable phase which is the primary reason for the grave consequences of nicotine intake during this period. Apart from the long term health impact smoking during pregnancy also leads to several complications in the process right from conception to delivery.
Why Smoking During Pregnancy is so Harmful
Smoking regularly has been established as a causative factor for more than 1800 diseases including some of the most common forms of cancer. There are over 4000 different harmful chemicals in every mouthful of smoke that is inhaled from cigarettes of which the most dangerous include cyanide, lead and about 60 plus cancer causing chemical compounds. Of all the chemical compounds that accompany smoking the most lethal are carbon monoxide and nicotine which account for almost all birth related complications that arise out of smoking during pregnancy. Nicotine and carbon monoxide act together to reduce the blood supply through the vessels including the umbilical cord resulting in complications including stillbirth, premature delivery and low weight babies. Its is akin to forcing the small embryonic baby to actually breathe through a narrow straw which gets further restricted as carbon monoxide reacts with the oxygen carrying red blood cells to form stable compounds thereby further reducing the oxygen supply. This results in retarded growth of the embryo which may even die of oxygen starvation.
Complications Attributed to Smoking During Pregnancy
There are numerous complications which may take place as a direct result of smoking during pregnancy of which the most common ones are described in the following paragraphs.
Early Rupture of Membranes:
The amniotic sac may rupture prematurely leading to a condition that will induce labor much before the baby is fully developed. This condition can be fatal for the mother as well as the baby. Even if the baby is delivered alive it will be grossly underweight and require prolonged intensive care to be able to survive.
Placenta Previa occurs when the placenta implants over the cervix resulting in a situation where either the placenta ruptures causing haemorrhage of the mother or making it impossible to deliver vaginally necessitating a caesarean section operation. In either case the health risks are hugely increased. Continuous intake of nicotine during pregnancy facilitates this condition of the placenta.
Lack of adequate supply of oxygen top the foetus during pregnancy due to smoking may cause Ectopic Pregnancy, a condition in which the foetus will move out of the uterus and implant itself at places like the fallopian tube which will ultimately burst as the foetus grows leading to death of the mother as well as the baby.
Placental Abruption is a condition in which the placenta detaches itself from the site of attachment. This causes large amounts of blood to be lost and endangers both the mother as well as the baby’s life. The lack of oxygen and nutrients will ultimately prove fatal for both. Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of this complication by 30 %.
Impairment of the Umbilical Cord:
Smoking reduces oxygen and blood supply to the umbilical cord which restricts its development and ultimately hampers the growth of the placenta.
Effects of Smoking During Pregnancy on the Baby After Birth
Smoking during pregnancy by mothers leads to a host of physical disorders in the babies who have to suffer for the rest of their lives with these complications. Smoking at a critical time of formation of the various body systems in the foetus hampers their growth and leaves behind systems that are either under developed or are very low on immunity.
Low Weight at Birth:
Babies that are born from mothers who smoked during pregnancy weigh 200 gms lesser than those born from non smokers. Reduced weight at birth implies under developed body systems and several mental disorders such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation and poor learning abilities which manifest during later stages of life.
Babies born from mothers who smoked while pregnant often display several types of withdrawal syndromes such as being jittery, over sensitive to stimuli and unstable. There are even unconfirmed reports that such babies are more prone to addictions and substance abuse as compared to other babies.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome:
Commonly known as SIDS, this phenomenon describes a condition in which infants die without any explainable reason which in most cases is not even diagnosed in the autopsy reports. Such deaths are explained through complicated medical research which points a finger at excessive smoking during pregnancy.
Babies that are offspring of smokers have 26 % more chances of turning into obese adolescents. This occurs due to the genetic programming that takes place in the foetus if the mothers smoke during the formation stage and it alters the eating impulses and energy metabolism patterns which lead to greater fat accumulation as the individuals grow.
Impaired Vital Organs:
Nicotine imbibed during pregnancy causes the lungs of the developing baby to be underdeveloped resulting in serious breathing problems for the child for future life. Even the chances of heart defects at birth are considerably higher for such babies. The brain functioning of these babies is also affected resulting in impaired motor skills and lower IQ.
Benefits of Quitting Smoking During Pregnancy
Quitting smoking at any stage of life is beneficial to the individual, however doing so prior to or during pregnancy does a world of good to the expecting mothers and their future kids. Ideally the habit should be kicked well before conceiving as it not only makes the body more prepared for the pregnancy but it also helps in conceiving. The maximum benefits are accrued when the habit is kicked during the first trimester (first 12 weeks) of the pregnancy. It is during this period that the risk of developing congenial heart diseases is highest in the foetus. This particular risk is directly proportional to the number of cigarettes smoked and the duration for which the habit is continued during pregnancy. Mothers who continue to smoke even after 16 weeks of pregnancy, seriously retard the growth of their baby’s body systems and have the certainty of under weight babies. The difference to the rate of growth after quitting can be easily confirmed in the next ultrasound.
It is the primary duty and responsibility of the mothers to ensure a healthy future for their off spring. Quitting smoking during pregnancy is one the surest ways of doing so. Expectant mothers must also be careful not to be affected by second or third hand smoke that accompanies other smokers in the house. The lure of nicotine is a hard thing to resist but then considering the grim list of consequences there is hardly any option than to stay completely off smoking during pregnancy. There are several medicine based and counselling methods available to quit the habit especially during crucial periods such as pregnancy. It is your love for the unborn baby that should compel you into taking a resolve and saying goodbye to this dangerous habit at least for the period that you carry another innocent life within yourself.