Smoking is an addictive habit that can make quitting pretty difficult. The good news is, research has found women typically quit smoking when they become pregnant. However, a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week found that one in 14 women still smokes while pregnant. Unfortunately, the baby is likely to experience major health issues because of it.
The dangers of smoking are pretty well-known. “Smoking tobacco, like it does when you are not pregnant, exposes you to a multitude of carcinogens,” Dr. Asima Ahmad, the reproductive endocrinologist at the Fertility Centers of Illinois, tells HelloGiggles. “In addition, it affects multiple organs and systems in your body, starting from your lungs down to your blood vessels.”
Smoking while pregnant can increase your risk of having an ectopic pregnancy. It can even cause abnormalities or problems with the placenta, such as placental abruption (which can deprive the baby of oxygen) or placenta previa (which can cause severe bleeding during pregnancy and delivery).
Clearly, it’s not a good thing.
“Smoking affects almost every organ system in your body,” Ahmad says. “This means it also affects the reproductive system by causing problems with your fallopian tubes, cervix, egg quality, and uterus.”
So even if someone were just trying to get pregnant, and not pregnant yet, smoking can make it difficult to conceive. In males, smoking not only reduces semen quality but is also associated with early pregnancy failures.
If you’re pregnant or trying to conceive, consider some of the scary things that can happen to your baby if you smoke while pregnant:
1. The baby can lose its source of oxygen.
“Cigarette smoke contains harmful chemicals, including nicotine, carbon monoxide, lead, and cyanide. In pregnant smokers, these chemicals circulate through the bloodstream and to the baby, affecting the baby’s source of oxygen and nutrients,” Dr. Alan Copperman, medical director at Progeny tells HelloGiggles.
According to Copperman, nicotine can greatly reduce the baby’s supply of oxygen by narrowing or tightening the blood vessels in the body. That, in turn, can limit the oxygen supply to the placenta. Additionally, red blood cells circulating through the body can carry carbon monoxide instead of oxygen, which can reduce the oxygen supplied to the baby.
2. The baby can be born prematurely and have a low birth weight.
According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, low birth-weight babies often have problems. They may have a harder time eating, gaining weight, staying warm, and fighting infection. They may also have breathing problems and nervous system problems, which can include bleeding inside of the brain.
3. They’re more likely to have certain birth defects.
According to the CDC, babies who are born to smokers are more likely to have a cleft lip or cleft palate. Other birth defects also include abnormally shaped heads or faces, gastrointestinal abnormalities, problems with the throat, colon, gallbladder, and liver, among others.
4. You can have a stillbirth or miscarriage.
About 24,000 babies are stillborn in the United States each year. There’s an increased risk of a stillbirth or miscarriage for women who smoke during pregnancy.
5. There’s an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
According to the CDC, there are about 3,500 sleep-related deaths among babies across the country each year. SIDS is defined as an “infant death for which a cause of death cannot be found.” When women smoke during and after pregnancy, the risk goes up.
“Currently, no amount of smoking in pregnancy is safe,” Dr. Lakeisha Richardson, board-certified OB/GYN tells HelloGiggles. “Smoking in pregnancy can be dangerous to the fetus while it is in utero and can be extremely dangerous to newborns.” For instance, smoking while a newborn is around can up the risk of SIDS.