Smoking during pregnancy can have serious consequences for your unborn baby. This is because when you smoke, you inhale dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. A baby in the womb gets all its nutrients and oxygen from its mother via the placenta and umbilical cord. When a pregnant woman smokes, some of the oxygen in her blood is replaced by carbon monoxide. This then restricts the amount of oxygen in the baby’s blood, causing the baby’s heart rate to quicken as it works extra hard to get enough oxygen. The toxins in tobacco also affect the ability of the placenta to function properly, putting the mother and baby at risk of placental abruption (the placenta which feeds a baby stopping working), which commonly leads to babies having to be delivered prematurely, and stillbirths.
Women who smoke throughout their pregnancy are more likely to give birth to a baby with a low birth weight (under 5lbs 8oz), and are more likely to suffer a miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy or stillbirth. Babies of smoking mothers are also more likely to have smaller organs, poorer lung function, and birth defects. There is a strong link between smoking during pregnancy and babies born with a cleft lip and palate.
The effects of smoking during pregnancy continue long after pregnancy. Babies of smoking mothers are more likely to die from cot death. The risk is 4 times higher for babies whose mothers smoked 1-9 cigarettes a day, and 20 times higher for babies whose mothers smoked 20 cigarettes a day. They are also ill more often than babies who weren’t exposed to tobacco chemicals in the womb, and are twice as likely to be hospitalised during the first eight months of their life. If you smoke, your baby will be more at risk of getting painful ear infections, asthma and chest infections in early childhood.
Pregnancy is the best motivation there is for giving up smoking. It’s never too late to stop smoking on pregnancy. Much of the damage can be reversed if you manage to quit smoking, and women who stop smoking halfway through their pregnancy give birth are no more likely to have a baby with a low birth weight than women who never smoked during pregnancy. You may be temped just to cut down, and while this is better than smoking as many as you normally would, even moderate smoking is harmful to your baby.
Pregnancy is the best motivation there is for giving up smoking. Stopping smoking can be tough, but there is lots of help available. The NHS Smoking in Pregnancy helpline is a free service staffed by trained counsellors who know how hard it is to stop smoking and will offer advice. Studies have shown that people are 4 times more likely to quit with NHS support, so talk to your midwife, antenatal clinic or GP to get advice and support to help you stay smoke free. Quitting is the best way to give your baby a healthy start in life!
Smoking during pregnancy is a huge issue, Alice from www.pregnancy.co.uk gives you guidance on why smoking should be avoided and the damage it can cause to both you and your unborn.
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