Smoking in Pregnancy Raises Birth Defect Risk

Smoking is one of the worst things a pregnant woman can do. It’s the number one cause of poor health and complications among newborns. There are too many dangers associated with smoking during pregnancy that it’s imperative for a pregnant woman to do something about this nicotine habit that she’s addicted to. Here are some of the risks that any smoking mother-to-be should be worried about.

What Makes Smoking Dangerous?
Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 harmful chemicals. About 60 of these are carcinogens. If a woman smokes during pregnancy, the toxic substances would get into her bloodstream. Since this is the baby’s only source of oxygen and nutrients, the baby is put at risk with the ingestion of harmful compounds. Nicotine and carbon dioxide are particularly dangerous. These are linked to almost all types of smoking-related complications during pregnancy.

The most serious complications are:
– low birth weight
– stillbirth
– premature delivery

These are caused by the reduction of baby’s oxygen supply. Nicotine narrows the blood vessels in the body, including those in the umbilical cord, which explains this phenomenon. Not only that, the red blood cells that carry the oxygen get the carbon monoxide instead, narrowing the blood vessels even more.

Low Birth Weight
Smoking a pack a day while you’re pregnant can reduce your baby’s birth weight by a half-pound. Some women make the mistake of thinking that it’s a good thing since a lighter baby is easier to deliver. But it’s important to remember that stunting the growth of your child would have negative repercussions on his physical and mental development.

Lung Problems
Most undersized babies also have underdeveloped bodies. One of the most commonly affected areas is the lungs. Many babies born from women who smoke have lungs that are not yet ready to work on their own. Because of this, they would require assistance from a respirator to be able to breathe. But that’s not all. As they grow up, they will continue to have breathing problems such as asthma.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
Babies whose mothers smoke even just a few sticks a day are at great risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Smoking doubles or even triples the risk of SIDS, which is one of the leading causes of death among newborns in the United States.

Heart Disease
Pregnant women who smoke particularly in the first trimester of pregnancy are likely to deliver babies who have heart defects. In a study made by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in February 2011, a mom who smokes increases the risk of congenital heart disease for her baby by 20 to 70 percent.

Heart defects include:
– right ventricular tract obstructions
– atrial septal defects.

Right ventricular tract obstruction refers to the obstruction of blood flow from the heart’s right side into the lungs.
Atrial septal defect is obstruction of the blood flow in the openings between the heart’s upper chambers.

Low IQ
As if all these problems are not enough, smoking can also cause low IQ, as the chemicals in cigarette smoke have negative effects on the child’s brain. Low IQ can lead to learning disorders and behavioral problems.

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