SMOKING IS THE LEADING CAUSE OF PREVENTABLE PREGNANCY COMPLICATIONS, and like alcohol, there is no amount of smoking that is known to be safe for your baby. To give you a better idea of the risk that’s involved (and to give you a little extra motivation to quit), here is a summary of how smoking can impact the health of your baby:
“Tobacco use reduces the birthweight of babies in direct proportion to the number of cigarettes smoked, with a pack-a-day smoker 30 percent more likely to give birth to a low-birthweight child than a nonsmoker.”
– Murkoff & Mazel (2008, p. 73)
Smoking has been determined to be responsible for 20% of all low-birthweight babies, according to the CDC. (Szabo, 7-28-2008) But what exactly does this mean? Low birthweight is a sign that fetal development has been compromised; that a baby didn’t grow as optimally as they might have inside the womb. This also means organs and bodily systems might have been compromised. So while low birthweight may not sound that intimidating, it is representative of more serious problems. Babies born to smokers also have a shorter length and smaller head circumference, and are more likely to grow to be short in structure.
Poor Apgar scores
Newborns whose mothers smoke generally score lower on Apgar tests, a standard scale used to assess infant health at birth. A 3-pack-a-day habit, for example, is associated with a 4-fold risk of low Apgar score. (Murkoff & Mazel, 2008)
Smoking causes a number of birth defects in the infant, including cleft palate, cleft lip, and heart defects. It also causes long-term physical deficits.
Smoking is responsible for an estimated 8% of preterm deliveries (Szabo, 7-28-2008), and all off the health risks associated with preterm birth.
Long-term health problems
Children whose mothers smoke during pregnancy are more prone to health problems throughout their life:
They are hospitalized more in the first year of life than children of non-smokers
They are more prone to ear infections
They have higher rates of allergies, asthma, and respiratory diseases
They exhibit a lowered immune system reaction, and are more susceptible to infections, including TB infections
They are more likely to have sleep apnea
A Danish study even found that if a woman smokes during pregnancy, her child is more likely to have fertility problems as an adult. (Readers Digest, Nov. 2010, p. 70)
Cognitive and behavioral problems
Pregnant women who smoke have more aggressive toddlers, and these children continue to have behavioral problems into adulthood. (Murkoff & Mazel, 2008) Babies born to smokers are at greater risk of infant colic. Smoking during pregnancy has also shown a strong link to conditions such as ADHD. These babies may go on to have problems in school or suffer from intellectual deficits.
Smoking can cause fetal and infant death
Smoking has been found to be responsible for 5% of all prenatal deaths, which are deaths occurring just before, during or alter birth. In real numbers, this amounts to more than 1,500 babies dying each and every year as a result of smoking. To really put these statistics strongly, compare this to the threat caused by registered sex offenders murdering children which many parents worry about; It would take them AT LEAST 5,000 to 10,000 years to snatch away as many young lives as will be taken THIS YEAR ALONE from smoking-related birth problems.
Smoker’s babies are also more likely to die from SIDS, and if you further consider the fact that smoker’s babies aren’t as healthy, and include all the allergy or asthma related deaths that occur from conditions children would never have had if not for smoking, then the death toll rises even further. There’s no way to get around this point: Smoking during pregnancy is dangerous.