OBSTETRICIAN – gynaecologist Robert Welch has helped thousands of women with high- risk pregnancies realize their dreams of a healthy baby. But even after all those successes, there’s still one situation that truly scares him: a pregnant woman who can’t quit smoking.
“Smoking cigarettes is probably the No. 1 cause of adverse outcomes for babies,” says Welch, who’s the chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and gynecology at providence Hospital in South field, Michigan. He’s seen the complications for too many times babies born prematurely, babies born too small. Babies would be healthier if pregnant smokers could somehow swap their habit for a serious disease such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
“I can control those conditions with medications Welch says. But when a pregnant woman smokes, he says, nothing can protect her baby from danger.
Why is it so dangerous to smoke during pregnancy?
Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including truly nasty things like cyanide, lead, and at least 60 cancer – causing compounds. When you smoke during pregnancy, that toxic brew get into your blood stream, your baby’s only source of oxygen and nutrients.
While none of those 4,000 – plus chemicals is good for your baby (you would never add a dollop of lead and cyanide to his strained peaches), two compounds are especially harmful: nicotine and carbon – monoxide. These two toxins account for almost every smoking – related complication in pregnancy, says ob-gyn James Christmas, director of maternal fetal medicine for commonwealth prenatal Association at Henrico Doctor’s Hospital in Richmond Virginian.
The most serious complications – including still-birth, premature delivery, and low birth Wight-can be chalked up to the fact that nicotine and carbon monoxide work together to reduce your baby’s supply of oxygen. Nicotine chokes off oxygen by narrowing blood vessels throughout your baby. Including the ones in the umbilical cord. It’s a little like forcing your baby to breathe through a narrow straw. To make matters worse, the red blood cells that carry oxygen start to pick up molecules of carbon monoxide instead.
Suddenly, that narrow straw doesn’t even hold as much oxygen as it should.
How will smoking affect my baby?
A shortage of oxygen can have devastating effect on your baby’s growth and development. On average, smoking during pregnancy doubles the chances that a baby will be born too early or weigh less than 51/2 pounds at birth, smoking also more than doubles the risk of still birth.
Every cigarette you smoke increases the risks to your pregnancy. A few cigarettes a day are safer than a whole pack, but the difference isn’t as great as you might think. A smoker’s body is especially sensitive to the first doses of nicotine each day, and even a “light” habit can have an outsize effect on your baby’s health.
Weight And Size
On average, a pack – a-day habit during pregnancy will share about a half pound from a baby’s birth weight. Smoking two packs a day through out your pregnancy could make your baby a full pound or more lighter. While some women may welcome the prospect of delivering a smaller baby, stunting a baby’s growth in the womb can have negative consequences that last a life time.
Body And Lungs
Undersize babies tend to have underdeveloped bodies. Their lungs may not be ready to work on their own, which means they may spend their first days or weeks attached to a respirator. After they’re breathing on their own (or even if they did from the start), these babies may have continuing breathing problems because of delayed lung development or other adverse effects of nicotine. Children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy are especially vulnerable to asthma, and have double or even triple the risk of Sudden Snfant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Babies whose mother smoked in the first trimester of pregnancy are more likely to have a heart defect at birth.
In a U.S Center for Disease Control and Prevent (CDC) study published in February 2011, these babies risk of having certain types of congental heart defects was 20 to 70 percent higher than it was for babies whose moms didn’t smoke.  The defects includes those that obstruct the flow of blood from the right side of the heart into the lungs (right ventricular outflow tract obstructions) and opening between the upper chambers of the heart catrial septal defects.
Brain Function
Smoking during pregnancy can have life long effect on your baby’s brain. Children of pregnant smokers are especially likely to have learning disorder’s behavioural problems, and relatively low 1Qs

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