Smoking and Pregnancy


According to recent data, approximately 25% of women of childbearing age smoke. In addition, 20-30% of pregnant women are smokers. Since the early 1980's, cigarette packs have carried warnings emphasizing the risks associated with smoking during pregnancy. It seems that nicotine is the principal agent responsible for harmful effects during pregnancy and smoking releases some 400 other chemical products into the system. Studies show that nicotine has an effect on the vessels of the uterus and, by making them contract, decreases the exchange of blood between the placenta and the fetus.

Many other factors are unfortunately associated with smoking, and can interfere with the baby's growth and development while it is in its mother's womb. For instance, insufficient weight gain for the mother during pregnancy, the use of other substances such as alcohol, illicit drugs, and disorders such as high blood pressure, diabetes, exacerbate the effect of smoking during pregnancy. There is no doubt whatever that pregnant women should stop smoking. However, this is sometimes extremely difficult and requires a great deal of motivation and support. Women who are already pregnant are strongly encouraged to reduce their level of smoking. They should have proper follow-up to make sure that their nicotine intake does not affect the development and growth of their baby. Smoking is a factor that can be changed. It is associated with a decrease in fertility and an increase in complications such as premature labour, premature rupture of the membranes, placenta praevia and placental detachment. Stopping smoking during pregnancy could prevent 10% of perinatal deaths, reduce the number of low-weight babies by 35% and preterm deliveries by 15%.

The effects of smoking do not cease at childbirth. If the mother smokes, there is a higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome (or crib death), respiratory infection, asthma, otitis and even attention and hyperactivity problems in young children.

If you have a smoking problem, make sure you discuss it with your attending physician, who can help you find ways to stop. If you are already pregnant and have not reduced your consumption of cigarettes, discuss this with your doctor at your next visit so that he or she can advise you.

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