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Effects of smoking during pregnancy

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The harmful effects of smoking during pregnancy have been known for many years and in 2001 the US Surgeon General summarized the effects as follows:

-Smoking during pregnancy is associated with increased risk for premature rupture of membranes, abruptio placentae (placenta separation from the uterus), and placenta previal (abnormal location of the placenta, which can cause massive hemorrhaging during delivery). Smoking is also associated with a modest increase in risk for preterm delivery.

-Women who smoke may have a modest increase in risks for ectopic pregnancy and spontaneous abortion.

-Infants born to women who smoke during pregnancy have a lower average birth weight and are more likely to be small for gestational age than infants born to women who do not smoke. Low birth weight is associated with increased risk for neonatal, perinatal, and infant morbidity and mortality. The longer the mother smokes during pregnancy, the greater the effect on the infant’s birth weight.

-The risk for perinatal mortality, both stillbirths and neonatal deaths, and the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) are higher for the offspring of women who smoke during pregnancy.

Most relevant studies suggest that infants of women who stop smoking by the first trimester have weight and body measurements comparable with those of nonsmokers’ infants. Studies also suggest that smoking in the third trimester is particularly detrimental.

Although less well known, there is also fairly good evidence of harmful effects on the child’s psychological development of smoking in pregnancy. A study published by Button and colleagues in the journal, “Early Human Development” this past week concluded that, “There is strong evidence for an association between maternal smoking in pregnancy and psychological problems in offspring. The problems most frequently associated are attention problems, hyperactivity, and conduct problems.” Although there are a number of explanations for this association, animal studies confirm a direct causal effect of toxin exposure on brain development during pregnancy.

The implications are very clear: there are massive benefits to the health of the mother and the baby of quitting smoking before or during pregnancy. The following link provides some good structured advice on quitting smoking in pregnancy:

http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/tobacco/prenatal.htm
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About the Author


MA, MAppSci, PhD

Dr. Jonathan Foulds is an expert in the field of tobacco addiction.

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