Although fewer women are smoking during their pregnancy now than in the past, the habit still persists among many women. In addition, even if a pregnant woman does not smoke, she may be exposed to secondhand smoke in the household, in the workplace, or in social settings. There is also new research about the dangers from third-hand smoke, the chemicals, particles, and gases of tobacco that are left on hair, clothing, and furnishings.
Smoke can be damaging to a fetus in several ways. It may cause the following:
Increased risk of birth defects
Subsequently, babies born to smokers may also have the following problems:
Poor lung development
Asthma and respiratory infections
Increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
Physical growth deficiency
Intellectual development deficiency
The mother, too, may experience problems during her pregnancy as a result of smoking, including, but not limited to, the following:
Infections in the uterus
Researchers believe the effects of carbon monoxide (which reduces oxygen in the blood) and nicotine (which stimulates certain hormones) cause many of these adverse effects.
Babies of mothers who are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have reduced fetal growth and low birthweight.
However, if a woman quits smoking early in her pregnancy, she increases her chance of delivering a healthy baby.