Smoking Risks While Pregnant

The goal of becoming pregnant is to create a healthy child.  Most pregnant women worry about the baby's development and try their best to influence their baby's health to the best of their ability.  One major factor that can influence the baby's health is smoking.  It is vital to understand the ramifications that smoking has on a pregnancy, on the fetus, and on the mother.

Smokers Need to Know the Risks

Recent national government surveys show that 14 to 20 percent of women smoke during pregnancy.  For women on Medicaid, this number increases to 30-35%.  This is quite significant, since 40% of all births are attributed to women on Medicaid.  These numbers indicate that it is vitally important for women to understand the risks of smoking to themselves and their baby - and of being exposed to constant secondhand smoke.

Risks to the Mother

Smoking has many adverse effects on the woman's body and her ability to carry a baby in a healthy way.  Smoking influences the normal function of the fallopian tubes and changes the natural balance of reproductive hormones.  It increases the chances that the women will have pelvic inflammatory disease because it influences the immune function.  Smoking decreases a woman's chances of getting pregnant altogether; should she find herself pregnant, a smoker has twice the risk of experiencing an ectopic pregnancy than a non smoker does.  This situation is one that can be very dangerous to both the woman and to the fetus.  There are also risks of miscarrying and of experiencing labor prematurely. 

Risks to the Baby

In addition to the smoking risks for the woman, smoking also puts the fetus at risk.  Smoking increases the risk that the fetus will be born with malformations such as a cleft lip or a cleft palate.  It also increases the risk of delivering a smaller infant or a still born infant.  Lower birth rate is related to developmental delays and stunted development.  Smoking during pregnancy also increases the risk that the child will smoke as a teenager and it often creates developmental problems in children.  Such problems include respiratory disease and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). 

The Dangers of Secondhand Smoke

It's important to understand that even passive smoking can affect the health of the fetus and newborn.  Some studies have indicated that babies born in a home where there is secondhand smoke have a birth weight of 25-50 grams less than normal.  When both the mother and another person in the home smoke, research shows even greater increases in baby mortality issues and in birth weight problems.

In order for women to increase their chances of becoming pregnant, and of having a healthy baby, it is vitally important not to smoke and not to be exposed to constant secondhand smoke.  These measures greatly help to increase a woman's chance of having a healthy pregnancy and of creating healthy babies.


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