Every year, May 31 is observed as World No Tobacco Day which aims to raise awareness on the harmful effects of tobacco use and discourage its use. While tobacco consumption in any form is harmful for everyone and can lead to various diseases, it is especially harmful for pregnant women as it exposes the mother and the unborn child to an increased risk of health problems.
Apart from increasing the risk of life-threatening diseases like cancers, heart diseases, respiratory problems, kidney problems, tobacco smoking can also lead to infertility in women. If a pregnant woman continues smoking, she can be at a risk of a wide range of problems including miscarriage, premature labour, and is likely to give birth to low-weight baby as compared to a mother who doesn’t smoke. Low weight babies are more exposed to infections, breathing difficulties and long term health issues later in the adulthood. As per statistics, around 6 million people die from tobacco smoking in India every year.
Dr Sowjanya Aggarwal, principal consultant, Max Super Speciality Hospital Patparganj and Max Super Speciality Hospital Vaishali, says that it is best for a pregnant woman to quit smoking to ensure good health for her child and herself. “Every time you smoke the baby effectively smokes too as harmful nicotine and chemicals pass through placenta and into the fetus. Smoking also reduces the blow flow to your baby,” he says.
Below she shares why pregnant women should avoid tobacco consumption:
Some major complications a pregnant woman who smokes regularly includes:
*Fetal death: Death of the baby within the uterus.
*Spontaneous abortion: It is commonly known as miscarriage.
*Problems with placenta: It includes early detachment from the uterine wall and blocking the cervical opening.
*Ectopic pregnancy: This kind of pregnancy takes place outside the uterus, usually within the fallopian tube.
*Premature rupture of vital membranes and premature labour.
Ways smoking during pregnancy affects the fetus:
*Causes changes in the baby’s brain and lungs.
*Affects growth and overall development of the baby.
*Reduction in oxygen level due to nicotine and carbon monoxide.
*Decreases fetal movements in womb for at least one hour after you smoke one cigarette.
Problems at birth due to continuous smoking during pregnancy:
Even after a baby is born, he/she is still at risk of some health and developmental problems if the mother or other members of the family continue to smoke. These include:
*Around three times higher risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
*Breathing and respiratory disorders like asthma.
*Increased risk of obesity.
*Increased risk of developing childhood cancers, high blood pressure and other allergies.
*Middle ear disease.
* Weaker lungs and heart.
*Low birth weight is linked with hypertension and type 2 diabetes in adulthood.
Considering the above, smoking should be strictly avoided. Women who quit smoking make a healthy choice for the benefit of themselves and their baby. It is advisable to quit smoking without medication, but if it is not possible then nicotine replacement therapy is advised which includes trying gums, mouth sprays or inhalator. These products are considered safer than smoking, but it may not be entirely risk free for the baby. If you are pregnant, then you should consult your doctor before starting nicotine replacement therapy to know about the risks and benefits of the same.