World Lung Day: Shocking side effects of passive smoking in pregnancy

Know the side effects of passive smoking during pregnancy for yourself and for your baby, and try to maintain a smoke-free environment.
Passive smoking during pregnancy
Passive smoking during pregnancy can be harmful. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Team Health Shots Published: 25 Sep 2022, 10:30 am IST
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Smoking is not just injurious to the smoker’s health, but also for everyone else around the person. This World Lung Day, let us find out the side effects of passive smoking for a pregnant woman and how it impacts the mother and baby.

Passive smoking is is the inhalation of tobacco smoke, called secondhand smoke,or environmental smoke, by a person other than the intended active smoker. Third hand smoking is the inhalation of smoke left behind by cigarette on objects like clothes, furniture or rugs. So, yes, even non-smokers can be affected adversely.

Exposure to tobacco can affect all stages of pregnancy, says Dr Anagha Danny Laliwala, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Masina Hospital, Byculla, Mumbai. The expert tells us all about how passive smoking can be harmful for a pregnant woman.

Smoking and pregnant woman
A mother-to-be should not just avoid smoking, but also passive smoking. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

How does tobacco smoke affect pregnancy?

Cigarette and cigars are made of tobacco leaves. Tobacco smoke contains approximately 7,000 chemicals out of which almost 250 are harmful.

Nicotine: This works on brain and in adults is responsible for addiction. In babies it hampers the development of foetal nervous system.

Carbon Monoxide: It lessons the amount of oxygen received by the body. Thus affecting overall growth of the baby.

Tar: It has carcinogenic and teratogenic compounds which cause oxidative damage and birth defects

Cadmium and heavy metals are also source of growth restrictions in babies.

All these compounds can cross the placenta, and through the umbilical cord, can pass to the baby. Breathing even little smoke can be harmful for the mother and child.

Also read: Is secondhand smoke as dangerous as active smoking? Let’s find out

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Protect your lungs
Protect your lungs from the side effects of passive smoking. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Side effects of passive smoking on the baby

In first trimester or the first 3 months of pregnancy, exposure to smoke increases chances of miscarriage by 11 percent and ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancy is implantation of fertilized egg outside of uterus. It always ends in pregnancy loss and can have serious and dangerous problems for pregnant mother.

Birth defects: Babies who are exposed to tobacco smoke when in womb, are prone to various birth defects, especially cleft lip and cleft palate or both which causes trouble feeding properly and needing surgery after birth.

Low birth weight in babies: Carbon monoxide and heavy metals in smoke can keep the developing baby from getting enough oxygen and harm unborn foetus.

Premature births and premature rupture of membrane: Chances of delivery before 37 weeks of gestation are high leading to prolonged NICU stay and life long consequences.

Still births: The babies may be Still born.

Placental problems leading to bleeding in pregnancy: Abruptio placental, which is premature separation of placenta and Placenta praevia, which means abnormal implantation of placenta, leading to vaginal bleeding and increased risk of life to both mother and baby are common.

Problems for the baby after birth:

SIDS: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or unexpected death in first few days of birth.

Respiratory problems: Like asthma, allergies, bronchitis, sinusitis, ear infection and pneumonia

Learning deficiencies, behavioural deficiencies, ADHD.

healthy baby
Exposure to smoke can increase health risks for your baby. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Side effects of passive smoking on mothers

Mothers are prone to infections, bleeding and mental issues in pregnancy due to passive smoking. Later in life they can be at higher risk for certain cancers, cardiovascular diseases and lung problems.

Also read: 6 things that happen when you smoke during pregnancy

How to avoid passive smoking

Education and counselling to increase awareness of risks of passive smoking to mother and unborn child is needed. Mother, husband or partner, household members and caregivers also should be included in the discussion.

Do not allow people to smoke in your house or your car even if windows are kept open as the smoke lingers in air and settles on furniture, clothes and rugs leading to being inhaled later on as third hand smoking.

You should exercise your right to ask people who smoke to step outside. If you travel, choose restaurants, hotels and maybe even rental cars which are smoke-free.

Lots of studies are available to prove the side effects of passive smoking in pregnancy. We as society need to take care of the health of the mothers and our future generations.



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