Cigarette smoke contains a lot of nasty substances, including nicotine, cyanide, hydrocarbons, vinyl chloride, and carbon monoxide, none of which is good for you or your developing fetus. Experts don't know exactly which components of smoke have what effects, but we do know that these toxins get into the mother's blood and cross the placenta. In addition, they cause decreased blood flow and reduced oxygen supply to the fetus.
Smoking also reduces vitamin C levels, among other vitamin levels. If you smoke during pregnancy, your baby may suffer from growth retardation, mental disorders, placental complications such as abruptio placenta and placenta previa, miscarriage, or even death. You, meanwhile, may experience symptoms ranging from shortness of breath to vaginal bleeding. Significant effects can occur with less than half a pack of cigarettes daily.
If you or your husband smokes, you may have a harder time becoming pregnant. Male smokers have been found to have lower sperm counts, and in at least one study, odd-shaped sperm. Once you do get pregnant, miscarriages are more common. There is also some evidence that smoking increases the incidence of tubal pregnancy, which can be very dangerous for the mother.
A recent 10-year study of nearly 248,000 women by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta confirms that low birth weight is also tied to smoking during pregnancy. This decrease in weight is dose-related, meaning that the more you smoke, the smaller your baby may be at birth. Overall, babies of mothers who smoke weigh almost half a pound less than those of their nonsmoking peers. In part, this is because babies of heavy smokers are born early much more often, with the dangerous consequences of respiratory problems that often accompany premature birth. Even if you smoke half a pack a day or less, you may be increasing your chance of delivering prematurely. Babies born on time to smokers may still be small if they were starved and failed to grow sufficiently in the uterus. Smoking wreaks so much havoc on babies because the many toxic components of smoke affectuterine blood flow, placental function, and may have a toxic effect directly on the developing fetus.
If that's not enough, the offspring of women who smoke during pregnancy have more health problems during childhood and, studies have noted, in their adult lives. These youngsters have more respiratory infections than the children of nonsmokers, are hospitalized more frequently for illnesses like bronchitis and pneumonia, and need to visit the doctor more often. According to a study at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, children of mothers who smoked throughout pregnancy performed less well at age three on tests of verbal, mathematical, and perceptual skills than did the children of mothers who quit smoking before the 20th week of pregnancy. The former smokers' children were about half an inch taller and weighed about a pound more than the youngsters of smokers.
Particularly ominous is recent research on the effects of "passive smoking" by a Yale University epidemiologist: the results clearly indicate a connection between cancer and growing up in a home in which a parent smokes. About one in six cases of lung cancer in nonsmokers may be the result of their exposure to secondhand smoke during childhood. Researchers concluded that if both parents smoke for 12 1/2 years each -- for a total of 25 or more "smoker years" -- their child's risk of developing a lethal form of cancer later in life is doubled.
Fathers-to-be have some responsibility here, too. Their smoke can harm the pregnant woman, the sensitive fetus, and later, the growing child. Fathers who continue to smoke make it harder for their partners to quit, and smoking not only exposes the infant to the effects of smoke but also makes it more likely that he or she will begin to smoke during adolescence. Even if you're willing to run the risk of an early heart attack or cancer for yourself, it doesn't seem fair to add to your child's eventual risk.
Just a little health infor tidbit from your smoke-free sexpert caro.