Mothers’ smoking during pregnancy is well-recognized as carrying a range of serious health risks for the unborn baby including fetal mortality, low birth weight, premature birth and a range of serious birth defects such as cleft palate, club foot and heart problems.
Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defects, contributing to approximately 30 percent of infant deaths from birth defects annually. Tobacco exposure in the womb may be a huge contributing factor. According to study results published in the journal Pediatrics, women who smoke during the first trimester of pregnancy increase their unborn child’s risk of being born with congenital heart defects by 20 to 70 percent. The study, conducted by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found a link between tobacco and defects that inhibit blood flow from the right side of the heart into the lungs and openings between the upper chambers of the heart.
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
SIDS, also known as cot death, is marked by the sudden death of an infant that is unexpected by medical history and remains unexplained after a thorough forensic autopsy and a detailed death scene investigation. However, studies show that infants of mothers who smoked during pregnancy are three times more likely to die of SIDS than those whose mothers were smoke-free. Furthermore, exposure to secondhand smoke doubles a baby’s risk of SIDS. According to the US Surgeon General’s Report, infants who die from SIDS tend to have higher concentrations of nicotine and conicotine (a biological marker for secondhand smoke exposure) in their body fluids than those who die from other causes. Yet another good reason to ditch the cigs. Quitting smoking is no easy task but it just has to be easier than grieving for a lost child!
Second hand smoke
A pregnant mother who does not smoke and breathes in secondhand smoke has a 23% higher chance of delivering a stillborn baby or a 13% higher chance of giving birth to a child with congenital birth defects. This is what researchers from the University of Nottingham, England, revealed in the journal Pediatrics. As we still do not know when the effects of secondhand smoke may begin, it is important to protect women from environmental tobacco smoke not only during pregnancy, but also beforehand. Expectant fathers need to be aware of the harmful effects their smoking might have, and ultimately, in the interests of their partner and their unborn child, the best option would be to give up completely
(Men also need to know that smoking does have an impact on sperm development and hence the prospects of the resulting foetus. Please quit before you even try for a baby).
Enter third hand smoke.
Unheard of before but now thought to be the reason why babies who sleep in their parents’ bedrooms exhibit nicotine levels three times higher than those that sleep in another room – even though the parents don’t smoke in their bedroom. These figures show that they suffer from what is known as “third-hand smoke”, in other words the harmful smoke particles that impregnate their parents’ skin, clothes and hair. This third hand smoke – the invisible remains of cigarette smoke that deposits on carpeting, clothing, furniture and other surfaces – also poses a serious health hazard to babies crawling on carpets.
So what to do?
In view of all the above, the guidelines to parents are clear:
- Do not smoke during pregnancy (mothers and fathers)
- Never smoke or let anyone smoke near your baby
- Never smoke or let anyone smoke in a room where your baby will sleep
- If you smoke, do not sleep in the same room as your baby
- Don’t hesitate to ask visitors not to smoke near your baby
- Avoid visiting smokey places with your baby
Any of the above will make your baby smoke passively and increase his/her risk of health problems significantly. Baby will also be more prone to colds and airway infections and have an increased chance to develop asthma and other diseases. Quitting is the single most important thing a couple can do to give their baby a chance at better health. So how about quitting today!