The Dangers of Smoking During Pregnancy
When a baby is conceived, it is most often a joyous occasion for the parents. A lot of changes are obviously in store for them, as well as some apprehension about what the future holds. They will have approximately nine months to plan for the birth of their child. Undoubtedly, they will begin making arrangements for day care, because they understand that, upon birth, the child will be totally dependent on them for all of his or her needs. What they may not realize is that complete dependence begins long before birth.
During the first couple of weeks after conception, the embryo travels from the mother’s fallopian tubes to the womb, where it will attach itself to the uterine wall. During this voyage, the embryo will spend its time splitting cells and multiplying rapidly. While the embryo is extremely busy during the first 17 days, this is not an extremely critical time of development when major organ systems are formed. If anything unhealthy is introduced into the mother’s body during this time, the affect on the embryo will either be no affect at all or they may completely destroy the embryo, causing a miscarriage. If this happens, it is likely that the woman will have no knowledge that she was ever pregnant (Hawkesley 8).
It is an entirely different situation during the next stage of fetal development. Many organ systems are developed during the second stage, which happens from the third to the tenth week of pregnancy. Any abnormality that forms during this time will be present from that time forward (Hawkesley 9). Because this stage is a significant period in which organs are being formed, it’s unmistakably essential that the mother take tremendous care in what she ingests, injects and inhales into her body. Any unhealthy substance that enters her body may have a tremendous impact on the health of her unborn child.
The third stage of fetal development lasts from day 56 until the baby is born (Hawkesley 10). During this time, organs developed in the second stage are simply becoming larger and more robust. While it’s unlikely harmful substances will affect the development of organs, they may retard the growth of them. It should be noted that the brain continues developing throughout the entire pregnancy, meaning that any harmful toxins used by the mother may, in fact, cause the baby to be born with brain damage (Hawkesley 10).
The fetus is attached to the mother by the placenta, which carries all of the oxygen and nutrition it will need until it is born. It is imperative for the mother to eat well-balanced meals because she is not only providing nutrition to her body, but to her baby’s body as well. Anything she eats, sniffs, injects or inhales will be passed onto the fetus and may impair the development or growth of it.
Due to the fact that cigarettes contain 580 carcinogenes in addition to nicotine, smoking is not only harmful to the mother, but it is also extremely harmful to her unborn child.
Cigarette smoking can cause a greater chance of miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight, and placental abruption. These babies also have higher perinatal death rates [stillbirth or death soon after delivery]. It is believed that the carbon monoxide in cigarettes negatively effect the fetuses red blood cells and cause small blood vessels to constrict, consequently reducing the oxygen transferred to the fetus (Thurston 381).
Nine months later and the baby is born, apparently healthy. The mother’s smoking didn’t seem to cause any harm to the child; or did it? There are many other risks associated with smoking during pregnancy. One of them is SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). While babies appear seemingly healthy, the CDC reports that babies born to mothers who smoked during their pregnancy, have an increased chance of dying from SIDS before their first birthday. The risk is 1.4 to 3.0 times than those babies born to women who did not smoke during their pregnancy (CDC website citation). While it’s also very important that the mother not smoke during her pregnancy, she also needs to be cognizant of her surroundings. If she is around anyone else who is smoking, the secondhand smoke she breathes in is just as harmful to her growing fetus as though she were smoking the cigarette herself. The same is true of infants who are exposed to secondhand smoke. Additionally, infants exposed to smoke both in the womb and secondhand smoke after birth have an even greater risk of SIDS. Simply states, the CDC says that “parents can help protect their babies from SIDS by taking the following three actions: not smoking when pregnant, not smoking in the home or around the baby after the baby is born and putting the baby down to sleep on its back [another risk factor for SIDS]” (CDC website citation). Other complications that can arise are asthma, learning disabilities and behavioral problems.
http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/health_effects/pregnancy.htm (Aug 14, 2007)
http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/Factsheets/Sids.htm (October 2006)
http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/TobaccoUsePregnancy/index.htm (Oct 2,2007) Tobacco Use and Pregnancy: Home