Can Second-Hand Smoke Affect My Un-Born Baby?

In terms of second-hand smoke, some research suggests that second-hand smoke can also be very dangerous to your developing unborn baby.  A pregnant woman who breathes in smoke is getting less oxygen than she otherwise would be.  This, in turn, means that her baby is getting less oxygen than he otherwise might.  This lesser degree of oxygen can lead to a variety of birth defects or problems, including low birthweight.  The smoke that comes from cigarettes can remain around a house, and can be found in clothes, furniture, carpets, and even curtains.  This passive smoke is thought to have a similar, though diluted effect, as actually smoking.

Smoking while you are pregnant, or being around second-had smoke, can be dangerous.  One of the biggest concerns with smoking during pregnancy is the risk of premature and/or low-birthweight babies.  Low birthweight babies tend to have a large number of health problems both immediately after birth and throughout their life that are directly related to their low birthweight.  Smoking increases the risk of your baby being born too small by about 30%.  The more that you smoke during pregnancy, the greater these risks are.  Some studies suggest that if a woman stops smoking before the end of the firs trimester, she can eliminate the increased risk of having a low birthweight baby.

Smoking is also known to cause problems with the placenta.  Placenta previa, in which the placenta is low-lying and covers a part or all of the uterine opening, and placental abruption, in which the placenta separates in whole or in part from the uterine wall, are common complications that can be caused by smoking.  These placental problems can lead to heavy bleeding during the delivery process that can pose a threat to both the mother and the baby.  Placental problems increase the risk of stillbirth due to problems with the placenta.

Some studies show that smoking while pregnant increases the risk of a premature rupture of the membranes.  When this happens, a woman will typically go into labor within a few hours.  If this happens too soon, before the 37th week of pregnancy, your baby can be born premature.  Other newer studies have suggested that the newborns of moms who smoke may even experience withdrawal symptoms after birth, much like the baby of a woman who uses illicit drugs.

Some studies suggest a link between prenatal smoking, second-hand smoke, and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), in which babies whose mothers smoked while pregnant were three times as likely to die from SIDS.

If you are pregnant and you smoke, now is the time to quit.  If someone in your household or a family member or coworker that you will be seeing regularly during pregnancy smokes, now is the time to ask them to quit, for your baby’s sake.  No matter how hard it is, quitting smoking will greatly reduce the risks to your baby.   There are a variety of smoking cessation methods, and you should find one that will work for you.  Contact your health care provider if you need more information about the variety of smoking cessation aids available.

Leila Pereira
Leila Pereira
I work in occupational therapy and occupational science. I specialize in early intervention pediatrics for children from birth to three years old; with an emphasis on children with autism. My goals are to support the achievement of developmental milestones in your child while collaborating with caregivers & parents; including play skill development, education, leisure, rest and sleep, feeding, nutrition and social participation. Licensed by the California Board of Occupational Therapy

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