Smoking During Pregnancy
Giving up smoking can be quite difficult but if you are pregnant it is necessary to quit the habit. Not only do you endanger your own life when you smoke, but you are also harming your unborn child if you smoke during pregnancy. There are many resources to help you give up cigarettes, check out this site for information to help you stop smoking.
How Smoking Affects You and Your Baby
Compared to fetus' in women who don't smoke, babies exposed to cigarette smoke while in the womb tend to receive less food and oxygen. This happens because when you smoke your baby and the placenta are deprived of oxygen and nutrients. The placenta then spreads further throughout the uterus, trying to seek out more surface area of the uterus from which to draw oxygen and nutrients. Yet, because it spreads out, it becomes thinner thereby increasing the risk of placenta previa and placental abruption.
Because of this deprivation, your baby is more likely to be born with a low birth weight, which is associated with many health problems including poor lung function. Smoking can also lead to preterm labor or a premature rupturing of the membranes because the body feels that the baby can no longer be fed properly.
Women who smoke during their pregnancy have an increased risk factor for many pregnancy complications. Some of the possible complications include:
- Increased risk of an ectopic pregnancy
- Increased risk of miscarriage or stillbirth. Smoking is believed to be responsible for 115,000 miscarriages a year and 5,600 stillbirths
- Increased risk of placenta previa, a dangerous condition whereby the placenta covers the cervix
- Increased risk of placental abruption. This is when the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus, denying all oxygen to your baby
- Increased risk of preterm birth. Babies born prematurely can suffer more breathing problems and have long hospital stays among other health problems
- Increased risk of apnea (breathing lapses) and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS or crib death) in babies born to mothers who smoked or who were exposed to second hand smoke after birth
- Greater chance of genetic defects, such as cleft palate or cleft lip
- Increased vaginal bleeding
Babies exposed to cigarette smoke in the womb, whether directly or from second-hand smoke, are more likely to be born with a low birth weight, shorter length and smaller head circumference. Being born too small is the major cause of infant illness and newborn death. Tobacco use reduces the birthweight of babies in direct proportion to the number of cigarettes smoked, with pack-a-day smokers 30% more likely to give birth to a low birthweight child than a nonsmoker.
Additionally, prenatal exposure to cigarettes can lead to long-term physical and intellectual problems in children, especially if you continue to smoke around them. Moreover, your child will be particularly prone to developing respiratory diseases, ear infections, tuberculosis, cancer, food allergies, asthma, short stature and attention disorders.
No one will dispute the fact that smoking is an addiction. Women need support and assistance to quit smoking, which is why there are special programs available to pregnant women and those thinking about conceiving to help quit smoking. Talk to your doctor or midwife about using medical help, like nicotine patches. Although these still have nicotine in them to help with cravings, you are not getting the other harmful substances associated with smoking. Here are some more tips on how to quit smoking.
- Write down your reasons for quitting. Look at the list when you are tempted to smoke
- Choose a "quit day." On that day, throw away all your cigarettes, lighters and ashtrays
- Identify your motivation for smoking. Once you do this, you should be able to find substitutes
- Stay away from places, activities or people that make you feel like smoking
- Ask your partner or a friend to help you quit and call that person when you feel like smoking
- Ask your health care provider about quitting aids such as patches, gum, nasal spray and medications. However, don't start using these without your health care provider's okay especially if you are pregnant
- Don't get discouraged if you don't quit completely right away. Keep trying. If you can't quit, cut back as much as you can
Since nicotine is an addictive drug, most people who quit will experience some withdrawal symptoms such as cravings for tobacco, anxiety, restlessness, increased coughing as the body gets rid of the accumulations in the lungs, numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, lightheadedness, fatigue, sleep interruption and gastrointestinal disturbances. The worst effects of withdrawal will last only a few days to a few weeks, but the benefits will be with you forever. Here are some tips on getting a handle on these symptoms:
- Try to curtail some of these symptoms by increasing your intake of fruit, fruit juice, milk, and mixed greens
- Try to cut down a bit on meat, poultry, fish and cheese
- Avoid caffeine which can add to jitters
- Get plenty of rest to counter fatigue
- Exercise to replace the kick that nicotine provided you while you smoked
- If you experience serious depression as part of your withdrawal symptoms, talk to your practitioner immediately
To get the help you need to stay smoke-free during your pregnancy and beyond, visit Stay Smoke-Free During and After Your Pregnancy.
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