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6 things that happen when you smoke during pregnancy

Updated on:3 July 2020, 18:45pm IST
You know that smoking during pregnancy is bad, but have you ever wondered what exactly happens when you smoke? Here, a gynaecologist explains.
Dr Vimal Grover
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Smoking is harmful, even for your unborn baby. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

There is no safe amount of smoking—even more so if you’re pregnant. Every single puff of cigarette releases harmful chemicals that effect both the baby and the mother. In fact, if you are planning to conceive—you should quit before you and your partner try for a baby.

Smoking during pregnancy also increases the risk of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, preterm birth, placental abruption, low birth-weight babies, neonatal mobility and mortality, and congenital malformations. Not just that, it also increases the chance of visual and hearing impairment, mental disability, cerebral palsy, and sudden infant death syndrome in your baby.

The nicotine, carbon monoxide, and tar in cigarette are responsible for these harmful effects. Newer studies show that in-utero exposure to smoking also has long term neonatal adverse outcomes such as impaired neurological development, endocrine dysfunction, and oncogenesis. These continue to manifest in early as well as late childhood. Post-delivery harmful effects on baby’s health are sudden infant death syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) disorder, and poor academic performance in school.

chain smoker
Smoking during pregnancy is unacceptable. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke gets absorbed in the maternal body and rapidly binds to hemoglobin forms carboxyhemoglobin. These lower the oxygen-carrying capacity of hemoglobin which leads to impaired oxygen delivery to the uterine muscle and feto placental unit, leads to impaired fetal growth and preterm birth.

The tar content in cigarette smoke forms a residue on the mucus membrane and lungs of the smokers. Tar contain most carcinogens compounds, which interfere with biochemical pathway. These lead to Increase miscarriage and fetal growth problems and fetal teratogenic effects.

The heavy metal cadmium in cigarette smoke is known to accumulate in the placenta circulation leading to fetal growth restriction. 

Long term health risks for the baby have also seen in women who smoked during pregnancy. These babies are more prone to cold, cough, lung problem, learning disabilities, and physical growth problems which can be more severe if a mother continues to smoke after the baby is born.

Apart from this, here are 5 things that happen when you smoke during pregnancy:

1. Miscarriage and still birth due to the effect of cigarette smoke on feto placental circulation.

miscarriage
Smoking can lead to miscarriage. Image courtesy: Shutterstock.

2. Ectopic pregnancy due to effect of nicotine on contraction in the fallopian tube.

3. Placental abruption where the placenta separates from the uterus before the birth of the baby, causing severe bleeding and endangering life of mother and baby.

4. Placenta previa which means that the placenta remains in the lower part of the uterus, completely or partially, this is associated with bleeding problems during pregnancy again risking life of mother and baby.

signs of pregnancy
Even passive smoking can make you nauseous. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

5. Numerous health risk associated with a preterm birth leading to increased neonatal morbidity and mortality, visual and hearing impairment.

6. Birth Defects most common types of problems are congenital heart defects, cleft lip, and cleft palette.

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Dr Vimal Grover Dr Vimal Grover

Dr Vimal Grover is director of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Fortis La Femme