Smoking During Pregnancy: The Effects on the Fetus and How to Quit?

Smoking During Pregnancy
Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.
 

All doctors and experts agree that smoking is not safe at any point during a pregnancy. In fact, many doctors agree that the safest thing to do is to quit smoking even when trying to get pregnant. This is because most women cannot give an exact date of conception, and the cigarettes could have already done damage to the growing fetus.

Effects of Smoking to Pregnancy

There are several ways that cigarette smoke affects a growing fetus. A baby who is exposed to cigarette smoke can be born too small, prematurely, or the baby can die before having the chance to be born at all. There are more than four thousand (4,000) chemicals in cigarettes, and those toxins end up passed to the fetus through the placenta. Two of these chemicals, nicotine and carbon monoxide, work together to cut off the supply of oxygen to the growing baby. Nicotine narrows the blood vessels in the expectant mother’s body, even those in the umbilical cord. The baby now has less oxygen being transported to it at a time. The red blood cells carrying oxygen through the umbilical cord start picking up carbon monoxide instead, which only further lessens the amount of oxygen the baby is receiving.

Many women have no problems realizing the dangers that cigarettes pose to their babies and often protect themselves even from second-hand smoke. In fact, it is a good idea that the expectant mother’s partner also refrain from using cigarettes or other tobacco products around her. Below is more information about smoking and the benefits of quitting.

Plans to Quit Smoking

There are plenty of benefits to quitting smoking, but the benefits are not always enough to encourage a woman to stop smoking. A brief list of benefits to stop smoking is below.

  • A chance at a healthy, happy pregnancy followed by the delivery of a healthy baby.
  • A lowered risk of cancer, including lung cancer.
  • Lowered risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease.
  • Less respiratory problems like coughing, wheezing, and a shortness of breath.

If those sound like benefits you want to receive, try these tips to help quit tobacco products for good.

Mark a date: The first thing you will want to do is set a start date. This is why you should start this process before even conceiving a baby. This will make it much easier to handle the withdrawals and cravings you will face. Make certain you tell family and friends that you plan to quit so that they can help you along the way. You might also consider looking for someone who is also quitting so the two of you can help each other.

Prepare for the challenges you will face while quitting: This is yet another reason why it would be a good idea to quit before pregnancy even crosses your mind. Pregnancy hormones are difficult enough to handle without dealing with. Find some healthy snacks that might help distract you from your addiction.

Get rid of all cigarette products: Lighters, ashtrays, and matches should all go including any cigarettes you might still have. Do not keep even one cigarette for emergencies. Clean everything that smells like cigarette smoke including your clothes, car, curtains, carpets, and furniture. You can purchase a small steam cleaner or probably find a place to rent one inexpensively. Use a carpet cleaner if the smell lingers in your carpets.

Meet with a doctor to get medical help with quitting: Your doctor will know what kind of medications to prescribe that should help you in your journey through quitting. There are also some products you can purchase over the counter like nicotine gum, patches, and lozenges.

Does Second-hand Smoke Affect the Baby?

Even being around smokers can risk a growing fetus. This explains why it is important that an expecting mother encourage her partner to quit as well. If he can’t quit yet, he should smoke away from her at all times. Second hand smoke can cause the same problems in a fetus, which is why an expecting mother should avoid it at all costs.

Are There Nicotine Replacements that Can be Used During Pregnancy?

It is best to discuss using nicotine replacements during pregnancy with your physician before attempting them. Many believe however that nicotine replacement therapy is far safer than smoking itself. This is because you and your child will be taking in only one of the toxins in cigarettes instead of the other 3,999. Oral products are recommended instead of patches as they release short bursts of nicotine compared to the nicotine released by a patch. If you are too nauseous to use oral nicotine products, use patches that must be removed at night. They will release less nicotine into your body and into the growing fetus.

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Author

Expert Author : Peony C Echavez (Consumer Health Digest)

Peony is a registered nurse, and former Director of Nursing services for a large nursing facility. She has written web content for a large health education website, and currently creates content for a number of health practisioners.