The Risks of Smoking During Pregnancy - Step To Health
 

The Risks of Smoking During Pregnancy

Tobacco use and exposure during pregnancy carry serious risks for both a woman and her embryo. Continue reading to find out why it's important to quit smoking as soon as possible.
The Risks of Smoking During Pregnancy

Last update: 15 October, 2021

Smoking during pregnancy is quite risky as these kinds of substances lead to various side effects on both a woman and her embryo. This is because tobacco contains nicotine, a brain-addictive substance that badly impacts a person’s self-control. Likewise, tobacco smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals, 250 of which are quite toxic.

Just breathing in these substances as a passive smoker can be harmful to your health. As you can imagine, pregnant women who either smoke or are exposed to tobacco smoke not only put their health at risk but also that of their future child.

Smoking is the most important preventable cause of bad side effects during pregnancy in industrialized countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Continue reading to find out more about these.

The mechanism of smoking during pregnancy

Nicotine, carbon monoxide (CO), and other toxic substances that cause mutations and cancer, travel through the blood and cross the placenta. This passage prevents, to a great extent, the flow of nutrients and oxygen necessary for the normal development of the fetus.

All this happens because nicotine has a vasoconstrictor effect (it thins the blood vessels). In addition, CO binds to oxygen receptors more easily (it displaces oxygen and doesn’t allow its utilization). Thus, it results in hypoxia (decreased fetal oxygen) and reduced nutrient supply.

A doctor discussing the risks of smoking during pregnancy.
Smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke during pregnancy can interfere with normal fetal development.

Check out these Eleven Habits You Should Avoid During Pregnancy

The risks of smoking during pregnancy

Both active and passive smoking can affect pregnancy by compromising the transport of nutrients and oxygen to the baby in ways such as:

  • Low birth weight
  • Miscarriage
  • Ectopic pregnancy (the fetus implants outside the uterus and can’t progress)
  • Premature delivery or growth delay (the baby may be premature and not fully developed, leading to all kinds of health problems)
  • Placental abruption, that is the placenta may separate from the uterus, making the exchange of nutrients more difficult
  • Premature placental abruption could also lead to premature delivery
  • Congenital malformations, due to the mutagenic activity (ability to cause mutations) of tobacco
  • Increased hospitalization time
  • Sudden infant death syndrome
  • Perinatal death (the baby may die at birth)
A pregnant woman smoking and drinking coffee.
Pregnant women who smoke can experience serious complications. For example, their embryo could have developmental problems and it may lead to miscarriage or premature birth.

Postpartum consequences

Smoking can influence the health of a child throughout their life in addition to increasing the risk during pregnancy. In fact, the deficit of nutrients and oxygen reaching the baby can lead to consequences such as:

  • Hearing problems; it’s typical for them to experience otitis
  • Infant cancer
  • Alterations in vision
  • Asthma and respiratory infections
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Behavioral problems
  • Delays in growth and development
  • Difficulty breastfeeding (problems during initiation and maintenance)
  • They may experience chronic pathologies such as diabetes, obesity, or heart disease when they’re adult

Find out if you should Drink Tea During Pregnancy

Not smoking during pregnancy is crucial

Unfortunately, there’s a high number of women smokers who continue to do so despite the increasing evidence of the harm of maintaining this habit during pregnancy.

Consult a health professional to get help with the psychological management involved if you don’t know how to quit smoking. This is important because the benefits of quitting are clear, especially during such a complex stage as pregnancy.

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