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Smoking & Pregnancy


Updated January 03, 2004

A few minutes and one more push later and the placenta comes out. The practitioner shows them this healthy organ that kept their baby alive, and praises it. "Look it's healthy, proper cord insertion, no calcifications, nothing like a smoker's placenta, looks like you ate well and took care of yourself. You'd be surprised what we can tell about a pregnancy from a placenta."

Yes, they are both very happy as they hold the baby. It was worth everything to have a healthy baby.

The Facts

Unfortunately there are many couples who aren't as lucky as Rita and Todd are and they continue smoking throughout pregnancy and do have complications. It is estimated that between 25-30% of pregnant women smoke, although the number does drop to 14% if the mother is a college graduate.

Here are some of the side effects from smoking:

  • Decrease in fertility (male & female)
  • Increase in spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) & stillbirth
  • Increase in ectopic pregnancy (tubal)
  • Increase in placenta previa (placenta covering the cervix)
  • Increase in Abruptio placentae (abrupted placenta)
  • Increase in premature rupture of the membranes
  • Increase in chorioamnionitis (Infection of amniotic sac)
  • Increase in preterm delivery
  • Increase in low birth weight births

One of the things that we do know is that there is an increase in the fetal heart rate two minutes that persists for 15 minutes after each smoking episode. There is also a decrease in fetal movement and in the beat-to-beat variations of the heart rate. In the newborn you also have complications such as an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, allergies, childhood cancers, respiratory illness, ear infections, etc.

The severity of the side effects is directly proportional to the amount of smoke inhaled (whether directly or passively). So if you are a smoker and you are pregnant, it is never too late to reap the benefits of quitting or reducing the amount of cigarettes that you consume.

Here are some places to turn to for help:

Special Delivery: Smoke Free (Stop Smoking Book)
Smart Move! (Stop Smoking Guide)
American Cancer Society
777 Third Ave.
New York, NY 10017

American Lung Association
1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872)
Smoking and Pregnancy (Order #0176C)
Freedom From Smoking (R) For You and Your Baby (Order #0738)

To read the story of Debra and Jeff and their attempts to quit smoking during pregnancy and for more information about smoking, pregnancy, and for additional resource, I have teamed up this week with Christine Rowley, Quit Smoking Guide, here at TMC.

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