Congratulations, you're going to have a baby!
But, if you’re a tobacco smoker, it's time to stop smoking in pregnancy.
Expectant mothers and their babies can face a number of health problems should mum decide to carry on smoking while pregnant. Risk of developmental delays, increased stress and anxiety, delivery complications and stillbirth are just some of the problems smoking in pregnancy can cause.
Despite being aware of these risks, quitting smoking can seem like an impossible task. Fear not, we're here to help you begin your new motherhood journey, smokefree.
Double the trouble
In a pregnancy, instead of just one person being affected by smoking, it becomes two. If you're a pregnant smoker, you and your baby are both at risk. And worse, the list of side effects gets more serious.
It’s the same cigarettes as before, so why?
Well, everything a mother does while carrying a baby is also being done to the fetus too. Food eaten, oxygen breathed, and toxins ingested are all passed on to the developing baby.
Side effects of smoking are already a possibility for the mum, but when you pass these same harmful chemicals down to a growing baby makes those side effects double.
How smoking harms unborn babies
Tobacco smoke materialises different side effects in babies than in adults. Some are mild, some are life changing, and some cut life very, very short.
Increased risk for cleft palate formation
Low birth weight
Heightened chances of SIDS
If smoking has been a part of your journey to become a mum, it’s never too late to stop smoking during pregnancy. Deciding to stop helps eliminate future or further risks and will aide in enjoying the rest of your pregnancy with one less thing to worry about.
But is it really necessary to quit smoking?
If you’ve managed to be a smoker without suffering side effects up to now, it’s time to stop trying your luck.
Carrying a little one could easily be the straw that breaks the camel's back and changes your luck in the smoking-related health department.
Everyone is aware of the million reasons one shouldn’t smoke. Every pack of cigarettes warns you that they have adverse effects. Yet somehow, emphasis on the damage tobacco can do during pregnancy is understated.
Don't be fooled.
The level of damage cigarettes can cause a fetus is devastating and can be hard to hear, let alone go through.
So, yes, it’s that serious. Your baby needs you to commit to stopping smoking.
How smoking affects your developing baby
Pregnancy is a vulnerable and pivotal time for your growing baby. A lack of key components like oxygen, nutrients, and adequate blood flow will interfere with the baby's ability to develop normally.
If you smoke during pregnancy, these developmental effects could present in different ways.
Limits growth and normal development
When you smoke, oxygen that would normally be passed on to your baby is replaced by carcinogens, carbon monoxide and nicotine. It doesn't need any of these chemicals to grow and develop. All they'll do is reduce the fetus' supply of oxygen limiting its ability to grow.
Every moment of growth for a fetus is vital. On average it takes about ten minutes to smoke a cigarette. As little as one cigarette a day shortens those moments. Reducing development time can lead to low birth weight.
All too often it’s rumoured there’s nothing wrong with having a small baby and it will just make the birthing process easier. While low birth weights can be perfectly normal, it's certainly not something to strive for.
Decreased weight in a newborn is an increased potential for complications. Being so small can mean underdeveloped vital organs, trouble fighting infections, difficulties eating, breathing, and trouble staying warm. The irregularities in growth patterns can have more permanent effects too.
Cleft lip and palate are often linked to smoking cigarettes during pregnancy.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
Smoking during pregnancy increases a baby's risk to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Chemical markers created by tobacco smoke have different effects on the brain of an infant than an adult. A recurring problem these chemicals create is an issue regulating breathing.
Not being able to keep breathing consistent can cause prolonged gaps in airflow all together. Those long periods without breath are a main cause of SIDS.
Unfortunately, not all babies delivered are born alive. When an expectant mother enters labour, but the infant has died in the womb, that’s considered a stillbirth. Stillbirths can occur early (20 weeks), late, or full term in pregnancy.
Past 20 weeks, stillbirths are 47% more likely to occur in a pregnant woman who smokes. The issues smoking presents surrounding oxygen, blood pressure and birth defects can make giving birth as a smoker uncertain and nerve-wracking.
It’s possible to resuscitate a stillborn baby. Given a successful resuscitation, more than half will not survive long-term, or survive with life altering disabilities.
How smoking affects born children
There are instances where expecting mothers go through their whole pregnancy and birth with no prevalent issues. Feeling like you’re in the clear and dodging a smoking-induced bullet can be great…
… Unless years later you start to see issues with your little one’s health.
Children born to smoking mothers often struggle with respiratory issues that can be severe and uncommon in kids. Pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma and persistent wheezing are known to develop in childhood. Heart disease and ADHD also increase in risk.
There’s no way to screen for the possibility of developing these issues later in life. They are things that can just happen, even when you thought your little one was unaffected by your smoking.
How smoking affects pregnant women
So that's what smoking in pregnancy can do to your baby's health, but what about your own? When you're pregnant, the list of smoking-related health problems gets even longer.
Issues like preeclampsia, placenta previa and placental abruption are more likely to happen to expectant mothers who smoke.
These issues are especially worrisome because they can make labour fatal for you and your baby. Delivering a newborn is a huge toll on a woman's body already. Being smoke-free and in good health is the best way to limit your chances of experiencing unwanted conditions like the ones below.
Stress & Anxiety
Smoking doesn't just challenge your health physically - i.e. causing cancers, seizures, nerve damage, heart problems, etc. It can also affect you mentally, increasing the prevalence of stress and anxiety.
Being pregnant is stressful enough - worrying about your next ultrasound, delivery etc, adding guilt about smoking and the damage you're causing to your unborn baby - you're really putting your mental health under severe strain.
Excessive stress and anxiety can create additional health risks for you and your baby. Most commonly is preeclampsia, consistently heightened blood pressure in pregnancy 20 weeks or more.
Preeclampsia is extremely serious and can be fatal, leading to many doctors putting patients with it on bed-rest until the baby is born safely.
During labour or shortly before, tobacco users are 2.5 times more likely to experience a placental abruption. As mentioned before, smoking interferes with the flow of oxygen to a growing baby.
That lack of oxygen affects the placenta and can cause it to prematurely separate from the wall of the uterus. If a placental abruption occurs, continued lack of oxygen, decreased nutrients, pain and severe bleeding can affect both the mother and the baby.
Conceiving and maintaining a pregnancy as a smoker
Decreased fertility is a common pain point for many women who smoke that are trying to conceive. That's because smoking is harmful to your reproductive system even before an egg is fertilised.
In fact, smoking makes it harder for eggs to be fertilised.
But, before you fork out for one of the more extensive (and expensive) alternative fertility methods, try tossing your cigarettes in the bin. Smoking can lower hormones, sex drive, block fallopian tubes, an damage healthy eggs.
Smoking doesn't just damage eggs, it can cause havoc in other parts of the womb. Ectopic pregnancies are commonly seen in smokers and can damage fallopian tubes, ovaries, etc.
A blocked fallopian tube is often the cause of an ectopic pregnancy. In an ectopic pregnancy, the egg implants somewhere other than the uterus—usually that blocked fallopian tube. Other possible locations are the cervix and ovaries.
Ectopic pregnancies can’t successfully be carried to term and must be removed either chemically or surgically.
Trying to conceive is already a very turbulent journey. The heaviness of finally feeling success, then losing it is a lot to bear.
And unfortunately, for pregnant smokers, it's not uncommon.
The chance of a miscarriage increases if a mother is a smoker or is consistently around secondhand smoke.
While miscarriages can happen during any pregnancy, smoking just makes that risk even higher and given the grief a baby dying can cause, doing whatever you can to keep that risk low, makes sense.
Make the decision to quit smoking today.
How should you quit smoking?
So, how should you quit smoking?
The best option for the health of you and your little one is to quit cold turkey. It may not be what you’d like to hear, but it’s the truth.
Getting rid of a nicotine dependence is hard enough. Getting rid of it instantly can feel impossible.
But persevere, the benefits not just to you, but your unborn child are innumerable.
It's going to be tough, but you're a strong cookie, you can do this. You aren't just quitting smoking for you, you're doing it for your family.
Saying that, if cold turkey isn't possible...
Take it more slowly
Start by cutting down your smokes day by day. If you smoke 5 cigarettes a day normally, try 4 tomorrow. Two days later, aim for three. Follow that pattern until you’re down to one and then the celebratory 0!
It’s possible to space out the way you wean yourself off of nicotine but considering pregnancy, stopping sooner is better.
If you need encouragement, seek out smoking cessation services, chat with women who recently stopped smoking, or with women who smoke but are trying to stop.
And if you can, stay away from other people's tobacco smoke. Passive smoking is just as harmful and can tempt you to smoke again.
How 88Vape can help you quit smoking
Maybe you’ve tried to give up smoking and just couldn’t. Cigarettes can truly have a hold on some people that’s not easy to break without help on a molecular level.
Thankfully, modern science and technology have provided the option of Nicotine Replacement therapy.
As it sounds, NRT allows you to quit smoking and replace the nicotine you’d usually get—just without all the added chemicals in cigarettes.
If you’re interested in lessening withdrawal symptoms, still ingesting nicotine and making the smoking cessation process easier, NRT is for you.
Nicotine replacement therapy is available in a variety of ways; patches, lozenges, sprays, vape pens and even chewing gum.
For lots of people, the oral fixation of smoking is just as soothing as the dopamine it releases in your brain.
Should you happen to be one of those people, vaping could easily be your best friend on the road to quitting smoking. Vapes come in a variety of options, sizes, flavours and nicotine doses. Being able to opt for different doses is helpful for regulating NRT in different levels of smokers and also as you wean down your nicotine tolerance.
Vape pens are also smaller and less bulky than a box of cigarettes and a lighter. That means you’ll have even more space in your bag for things your little one will need after they’ve made their debut.
Minimising the risks
If you’ve read all the above and are panicking because you’re already on your baby journey, it isn’t too late to stop.
Giving your unborn baby the chance to develop smoke free is better given late than never.
If you’ve managed to begin a healthy pregnancy so far and have been smoking, quitting today will eliminate any more toxic chemicals from interfering with you or your baby's health.
Truly, that’s the only way to take risks back down to a minimum. Even low rates of cigarette consumption (one a day, one a week) pose a risk.
The only viable way to work towards limiting the damage of prior smoke and preventing future damage is just to stop.
There aren’t any other shortcuts; it’s just time to stop smoking.