How does smoking affect fetal development?

(July 8, 2010)

Smoking Affects Fetal Development

Active and passive smoking are two of the most widely discussed health problems due to the disastrous effects that they have on the expectant mother and her unborn child. Cigarette smoke contains nearly 4000 chemicals such as lead, cyanide, and 60 other cancer causing compounds. When you smoke, the toxins gets mixed in your blood, the only source of nutrients and oxygen for your baby. Cigarette smoke contains some of the most harmful chemicals such as nicotine and carbon monoxide. Nicotine and carbon monoxide work towards reducing the supply of oxygen to the baby. Smoking also lowers the chances of conceiving by at least 40%.

When a pregnant women smokes, she risks negatively affecting her unborn child’s lifelong health. Expectant mothers should avoid both active and passive smoking. The risk of serious complications such as stillbirth, premature delivery, and low birth weight is increased due to smoking.  Nicotine narrows the blood vessels in your body, including the one in the umbilical cord, forcing your baby to breathe from a narrow passage.  Shortage of oxygen can have devastating effects on your baby’s growth and development. Smoking doubles the risk of premature delivery, still birth, and low weight birth. Smoking a pack of cigarettes will shave off about a pond from your baby’s weight. Sometimes smoking can also cause stunt the growth of your baby in the womb.

The lack of proper development will lead to underdeveloped growth of organs such as the heart and lungs. The lungs may not function properly, so babies may have continual breathing problems. The risk of sudden infant death syndrome is also very high if the mother smoked during pregnancy. These are all the adverse effects of nicotine and carbon monoxide.  Nicotine, which reduces oxygen supply to the baby, can be a major factor in fetal death. Cigarette smoke may also detach the placenta from the uterus, leading to death as there is no supply of nutrients and oxygen to the baby.

Children, whose mothers smoked during pregnancy, can have learning disorders, behavioral problems, and lower IQs. Smoking can have lifelong effect on the baby’s brain. Smoking limits the nutrition that the baby can receive otherwise.  Children exposed to cigarette smoke may suffer from serious health problems such as asthma and cancer.

You can give your baby the best gift by giving up smoking. You should ideally give up smoking even before you conceive, so that you eliminate even the rarest possibilities of miscarriage, stillbirth, low weight birth, and premature delivery. Consult your doctor, ask for help from your partner, or use community groups to find out how to quit smoking.

Submitted by P T on July 8, 2010 at 02:05

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