Smoking during pregnancy is strictly forbidden - we all know that. In fact, if you've decided to become a mum it's better to stop right then.
And why? Well, in fact, smoking is also bad for conception. Smoking is bad for everything, actually! But we don't need to enlighten you about the pernicious effects of smoking altogether, we're sure you know them well: Lung, tongue and throat cancer (and it's associated to all sorts of other cancers too), heart disease, loss of lung capacity, loss of bone density... and infertility. That's why it is recommended to stop smoking while you're trying to conceive. You'll have a better chance of getting pregnant.
But we're not here to talk about conception, or about the consequences of smoking in general. We're here to discuss the consequences of smoking when pregnant, so if you're not sure why it is so bad, don't miss the following lines.
The effects of smoking during pregnancy: Are they really that bad?
We all know that smoking in pregnancy is forbidden, but not everybody knows why - not everybody knows the kind of consequences it can lead to for an unborn baby.
Many people believe that the stress of quitting can be worse than the cigarette itself. Of course, the more you smoke the worse will the consequences be and the greater the risks, but, same as happens with alcohol during pregnancy, it is quite difficult to stablish how much is too much. Experts don't know exactly how much those two cigarettes you allow yourself a day will affect your unborn baby.
The risks and the effects of smoking while pregnant are there, and can't be denied. That's what we know for sure. Tobacco has more than 4,000 different chemicals, which means it's not good news for you or your future child. Smoking during pregnancy means taking a risk, and the truth is, when we are expecting we want as few of those as possible. Maybe taking a look at those will help you put down the cigarette for good.
Smoking during pregnancy: The consequences for the baby
Let's start with the dangers for our biggest concern during those 9 magical months: the health of our baby-to be. This is what you're risking if you smoke during pregnancy:
- Stillbirth: The risk of stillbirth is much higher if you smoke during pregnancy.
- Birth defects: Experts have found a link between pregnant women who smoke and certain defects in the baby's development while in the womb, such as a cleft palate or heart defects.
- Low birth weight: The baby could be born with low weight, and also smaller than usual.
- Premature birth: Your baby is more likely to be premature if you smoke during pregnancy.
- Breathing problems: Addiction to nicotine isn't the only logical consequence of tobacco use the baby can inherit: lung issues is another one of them, and also a consequence of the two previous possible effects of smoking during pregnancy. A baby that is born premature or with low weight has an underdeveloped body, and his or her lungs could not be completely developed, as one of the bad effects of nicotine is the underdevelopment of the lungs. Children of smoking mothers are also more likely to suffer from coughs and asthma.
- Cot death: That's right. The baby will also be at greater risk of suffering sudden infant death syndrome of cot death, a risk that can still be increase if the baby is a second hand smoker after he's born.
As you can see, it is quite a long and scary list. And there is even more. Smoking during pregnancy can affect your baby in other ways too: it can increase his or her heart rate, and the nicotine you're getting from the cigarettes passes to him or her through your blood stream.
Keep in mind that, same as the more you smoke the greater the risks, the longer you smoke the greater they are, too. It's true that the risk of stillbirth is much milder after the second trimester, but if you keep smoking until your due date your baby has more chances of being born premature or underweight.
Smoking during pregnancy. The consequences for the mother
Did you think smoking had bad effects only for your baby? Smoking is bad per se, but during pregnancy you could be suffering its consequences even more. You are more likely to suffer pregnancy complications f you smoke. Besides, during pregnancy you're going to be more tired, and it's common knowledge that smoking is close friends with fatigue. Besides, you're going to need as much lung capacity as you can get, because moving around with a huge baby bump is no easy thing.
During pregnancy, it's essential to adopt a healthy lifestyle, including a healthy and energetic pregnancy diet and a sports routine - moderate exercise is more than enough. Quitting smoking will only help achieving these wonderful lifegoals.
Secondhand smoke is pernicious too
OK, maybe you have never smoked a cigarette in your life. But what if your partner smokes like a chimney? Will that be bad for you or the baby? Well, as expected, the short answer is yes. Obviously, the risks are not as high as if you're the one who's smoking, but the possible consequences are the same. Some studies have stated that infants whose parents are smokers are more likely to suffer from pneumonia or bronchitis during their first year of life.
How to quit smoking during pregnancy
Quitting during pregnancy isn't easier than any other day. Yes, you have a stronger motivation, which can be of help, but you're also going to be moodier, and nervous and, all in all, constantly riding on a roller-coaster of emotions. As we said at the beginning of the article, the best decision is to quit before getting pregnant, but, of course, that can only happen if the baby is planned. If you're dealing with a surprise pregnancy, you should know that it's never too late to quit. In fact, the sooner you quit the better for you and the baby.
It's obviously better if you quit as soon as you find out, but know that if you do it, let's say, at week 30 of pregnancy, you would still be giving your baby a few weeks to catch up with his weight and development.
And how to quit? Well, there's going to be some suffering, unfortunately. Throw all your smoke-related items away and forbid smoking in your house. You can also ask everybody you hang out with to stop smoking in front of you, and try to change the habits you associate with cigarette time. For instance, if you used to smoke one after coffee, replace said coffee for some herbal tea (you should be cutting down caffeine anyway). Sugar free gum can be of help!
The best option is to quit without artificial help. E-cigarettes during pregnancy are equally pernicious, and nicotine patches and gums release nicotine on your bloodstream that can affect the baby. They are still better than smoking, though, which is why the American College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology recommends using them only if all the other approaches have failed. Before trying those, you can turn to counselling or join a support group, which will offer emotional support. Besides, it is always helpful to talk to other people who've been through what you've been.
Quitting isn't easy, but is there going to be a better time than this? Actually, it can be a perfect time for both parents to quit. Passive smoke is bad for mother and baby, and it's harder for mummy to quit if she's surrounded by someone who still bows to the cigarette. Best option? The whole household quits at once!
All in all, if you're pregnant and smoking, it's pretty obvious what your next challenge should be. We're not too keen on telling anybody what to do, but you know smoking is bad. And smoking during pregnancy is even worse. Quitting is the best option, not only for your baby, also for yourself. It's a decision you will be thankful for in the future for sure!