Dr Mohit Bansal
MBBS, PG Fellow – Family Medicine
Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore – 5 years experience
Smoking and pregnancy do not mix. Smoking while pregnant puts both you and your unborn baby at risk. Cigarettes contains dangerous chemicals, including nicotine, carbon monoxide, and tar. Smoking significantly increases the risk of pregnancy complications, some of which can be fatal for the mother or the baby. Learn about the risks of smoking while pregnant.
If you smoke and want to get pregnant, quitting the habit should be a priority. Smoking can prevent you from getting pregnant in the first place. Even in the first trimester, smoking affects the health of your unborn baby. Both male and female smokers are about twice as likely to have issues with fertility compared to non-smokers.
Second-hand smoke is just as dangerous to the fetus. Second hand smoke is a carcinogen. That means it is known to cause cancer in humans.
1) Miscarriage and stillbirth
The unexpected loss of a pregnancy is a tragic event at any stage. Miscarriages typically occur in the first three months of pregnancy. On rare occasions, they can occur after 20 weeks of gestation. This is called a stillbirth.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking raises the likelihood of both early miscarriage and stillbirth. The dangerous chemicals in cigarettes are often to blame.
Other complications from smoking can lead to problems with the placenta or slow fatal development. These issues can also cause a miscarriage or stillbirth.
2) Ectopic pregnancy
Nicotine can cause contractions in the fallopian tubes. These contractions can prevent an embryo from passing through. One possible result of this is an ectopic pregnancy. This happens when a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus, either in the fallopian tube, or in the abdomen. In this situation, the embryo must be removed to avoid life-threatening complications to the mother.
3) Placental abruption
The placenta is the “lifeline” structure that forms during pregnancy to provide the fetus with nutrients and oxygen. Smoking is a major risk factor for several complications linked to the placenta. One such problem is placenta abruption. The placenta separates from the uterus before childbirth in this condition. Placenta abruption can cause severe bleeding and threaten the life of both the mother and the baby. There is no surgery or treatment to reattach it. Immediate medical attention may help increase the chance of a healthy birth despite placenta abruption.
4) Placenta Previa
Smoking is also a risk factor for placenta previa. During pregnancy, the placenta normally grows in the uterus towards the top of the womb. This leaves the cervix open for delivery. Placenta previa is when the placenta stays in the lower part of the uterus, partially or fully covering the cervix. The placenta often tears, causing excessive bleeding and depriving the fetus of vital nutrients and oxygen.
5) Preterm birth
According to the CDC, smoking during pregnancy can cause preterm birth. That is when a baby is born too early. Risks associated numerous health with a preterm birth. These can include:
6) Low birth weight
Smoking can also cause babies to be born with a low birth weight. This does not just mean delivering a small baby. Low birth rate can also lead to other health problems and disabilities. Advances in medical care have reduced the number of deaths because of low birth weight. However, it is still a serious condition that can result in:
In extreme cases, low birth weight can cause the death of the new born.
According to the American Cancer Society, women who quit smoking before getting pregnant lower their risk of having a baby with a low birth weight. Even women who stop smoking during their pregnancy are less likely to have babies with low birth weight than women who keep smoking.
7) Birth defects
Smoking during pregnancy raises the risk of your baby being born with birth defects. The most common types of problems are congenital heart defects and problems with the structure of the heart. Other health issues that have been linked to smoking while pregnant include cleft lip and cleft palate
The unfortunate truth
Many pregnant women still smoke despite the known risks the habit will create for themselves and their babies. According to the CDC, 10 percent of women report that they smoked during the last three months of pregnancy. The only real way to avoid pregnancy complications associated with smoking is to quit.