Currently, over 10 percent of women in the UK smoke at the time of delivery. With tobacco smoke linked to birth defects, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and many other serious health problems, saying no to nicotine is one of the best things you can do for your unborn child.
With so much of our children’s safety being out of our control, protecting your baby from tobacco smoke is one of the best and simplest things you can do to give them a healthy start in life. It might be difficult to quit, and the sooner you do the better, but it’s never too late to give up or cut down. Taking steps to put yours and your baby’s health before your habit has immediate benefits.
When you smoke, you put thousands of harmful chemicals into your lungs and blood stream, including nicotine and carbon monoxide. This blood flows straight to your unborn baby and can restrict their vital oxygen supply. Essentially, every time you smoke, your child’s tiny heart will have to beat harder. Here’s why you should quit today:
- You will reduce the risk of complications in both pregnancy and birth, such as ectopic pregnancy (when the embryo becomes implanted outside of the womb).
- Your pregnancy and baby are more likely to be healthy as more oxygen enters your blood.
- You will reduce the risk of stillbirth. An analysis of 24 studies by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) found that the risk of stillbirth was 47 percent higher in women who smoked during pregnancy than in those who did not.
- Your baby will be less likely to be born too early and face the additional breathing, feeding and health problems that often come with being premature.
- Your baby will be less likely to be born underweight. Babies of women who smoke are, on average, 200g (about 8oz) lighter than other babies. This can cause problems during and after labour, such as infection and problems keeping warm.
- You will reduce the risk of cot death, or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). According to the Lullaby Trust, smoking could be linked to 60 percent of sudden infant deaths.
If your partner, or anyone else who lives with you, smokes, it can cause worse stresses than finding it more difficult to quit. Passive smoke can affect you and your baby, both before and after birth.
Secondhand smoke can reduce your baby’s birth weight, increase the risk of cot death, and make your child more likely to be admitted to hospital for bronchitis and pneumonia during their first year. To reduce the impact of passive smoking, ask smokers to smoke outside and try to keep your distance.
Time to Quit
The first few days after stopping smoking are not going to be much fun. However, the annoying withdrawal symptoms are a sign that your body is beginning to recover, as the harmful gasses and chemicals are cleared from your body.
It is not recommended by the NHS that you take 'stop smoking' tablets such as Champix or Zyban during pregnancy. Instead try nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), such as patches, chewing gum or mouth spray, which only contain nicotine and none of the damaging chemicals found in cigarettes.
E-cigarettes are considered a healthier alternative to smoking, but not enough is known about their effects on pregnancy, so consult your midwife.
By stopping smoking now, you will also be benefiting your baby’s future life.
Children whose parents smoke are more likely to suffer from asthma and other serious illnesses, and to require hospital treatment. There is also evidence to suggest that parental smoking is linked to psychological problems in childhood, such as reduced attention span, hyperactivity problems and negative behaviour.
Put it out now, and you're doing one of the best things you can to give your child a healthy start in life!
This fearure was originally published in the summer edition of Healthy Child with Dr Ranj Singh, which you can also read here!