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Smoking While Pregnant

Why cigarettes and pregnancy should never mix

Unless you have been living under a very large, very heavy, very dark rock for many years, you will have heard something about the serious dangers of smoking during pregnancy.

Perhaps the best-known effect of smoking while pregnant is that it significantly increases the baby's risk of dying from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, a condition in which a sleeping infant seems to just stop breathing. Scientists have found that babies exposed to nicotine in the womb don't develop a proper fight-or-flight mechanism in response to oxygen deprivation; they are less likely, for example, to change the position of their heads when lying face-down and experiencing a reduction in their oxygen supply. This connection is not surprising given that a mother's smoking during pregnancy negatively impacts the supply of oxygen to the fetus in the womb.

Other Negative Effects of Smoking while Pregnant

Smoking while pregnant doesn't just significantly increase your baby's risk of dying from SIDS -- it also increases your risk of miscarriage, still birth, premature birth and, if you do carry to term, your baby's risk of having to live with any number of other serious and lifelong health problems. If you choose to combine cigarettes and pregnancy, some of the dangers you are exposing your baby to are:

  • Carcinogens and pollutants. Nicotine, carbon monoxide and the plethora of 4,000 other chemicals that the mother inhales with every cigarette enter her bloodstream and are passed on to her unborn baby. Fifty of these chemicals are known cancer-causers.
  • Slowed prenatal development. Smoking during pregnancy decreases the amount of oxygen and nutrients that your growing fetus receives. Babies whose mothers were exposed to first- or second-hand smoke while pregnant tend to have low birth-weights, which makes them more susceptible to infection and respiratory and other medical problems.
  • Disrupted prenatal breathing and heart rate. The combination of nicotine and pregnancy causes an unnatural spike in the baby's breathing and heart rate.
  • Developmental and learning disabilities later. There is evidence that the schoolchildren of women who smoked while they were pregnant struggle more with reading and math skills.
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