In this health-conscious time, a smoking preggo is viewed as an image of bad motherhood. Their doctors don’t agree with it, their neighbors don’t agree with it, and their families don’t agree with it. It’s like the mother is viewed as a potential murderer of her own child.

But why do doctors, health enthusiasts, and concerned citizens fuss so much about pregnant smokers?

First, because it’s bad for the woman’s health. Second, because it’s extremely bad for the baby she’s carrying.

Tobacco smoke (direct and secondhand) carries many toxic chemicals like nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide, cyanide, and lead. All of these toxins are absorbed in the mother’s bloodstream and are consequently delivered all throughout her body and to the placenta, the baby’s only source of nourishment. Now, when these chemicals are fed to the baby, they cause a greatly negative impact on baby’s growth and development:

  • Low birth weight and size
  • Premature birth
  • Underdeveloped bodies
  • Weak lungs
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Learning disorders and low IQ
  • Behavioral problems
  • Increased risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)
  • Higher risk for stillbirth and miscarriage

All of the probable effects mentioned above are primarily caused by tobacco smoke’s effect on the mother’s circulatory system. When she smokes, her blood vessels (including those in the baby’s umbilical cord) tighten and become narrow, and carbon monoxide is absorbed and carried by her red blood cells instead of oxygen. It’s like intentionally depleting the baby’s supply of oxygen, the most important nutrient babies need in order to grow and develop properly.

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