If you didn’t read the previous part, go to the use of tobacco during pregnancy in numbers.
For anyone at any time in their life, there are always impacts on cigarette use. It can be a huge risk factor and cause many health problems, including different types of cancer or respiratory and heart diseases.
For pregnant women, the difference is in the fact that that the impacts can also harm the baby she’s carrying in her uterus. The placenta is penetrable. Unfortunately, the harmful components in a cigarette can penetrate the placenta and harm the baby via the mother’s blood. It can directly expose the fetus to these factors and significantly hurt their growth and development.
The contents of a cigarette can include up to 7,000 different chemical substances, and these can have three types of impacts—on the pregnant woman’s health, the pregnancy outcome and the health of the baby.
The Impacts of Cigarettes for the Pregnant Woman
As you know, pregnancy impacts women’s metabolism. It accelerates significantly to meet the growing needs of babies. Mothers provide their babies with essential nutrients and oxygenation required for their development. This begins very quickly after conception.
One of the nicotine effects is to reduce the size, diameter of blood vessels. In medical terms, this is called vasoconstriction. Blood vessels with a smaller diameter than expected don’t have the same ability to transport the quantity of blood required for oxygenating and feeding different organs and issues. This includes supplying baby’s needs.
A pregnant woman who smokes will see and lowering her capacity to absorb different vitamins, such as folates or vitamin C and B6. This will make her more vulnerable to infections, as her immune system is weakened.
She will likely have symptoms associated with increased respiratory problems. The contraction of the blood vessels will impact her respiratory capacity. Cardiorespiratory exchanges will be more difficult; on the one hand, eliminating carbonic gas, which is waste, and on the other, resupplying oxygen needs.
We also note, as a consequence, higher heart rates in pregnant women who smoke. Once again, the contraction of the blood vessels under the effect of nicotine is part of this phenomenon. The heart compensates by increasing its rate to meet the blood flow necessary for the organism to function. In the end, the cardiac load is higher, meaning that the cardiac muscle has to work much harder than it should to do its job.
Cigarette use for a pregnant woman increases her risks for gestational or pregnancy hypertension. This corresponds to an increase in blood pressure higher than desired during pregnancy. This complication can have an unwanted negative impact on the baby’s weight gain (low-weight baby) and the pregnancy outcome.
The Impacts of Cigarette Use on the Pregnancy Outcome
In a pregnant woman that smokes, we note that they will experience more pregnancy complications. The most common problems include spontaneous abortions (miscarriages), ectopic pregnancies (in the fallopian tube) (in french), praevia placentas (placenta lying in the opening of the cervix), premature breaking of water, premature deliveries and growth delays in the newborn.
In the worst case, there’s an increased danger for the baby’s life before birth or in the hours and days following its arrival due to newborn sudden death syndrome.
This is serious, so think about it!
Impacts on the Baby
Nicotine can have consequences on the in-utero development of the baby’s brain and blood vessels found in the umbilical cord. They may likely be forced to contract.
Add to that an accumulation of carbon monoxide in their blood. This reduces oxygen supply and exposes them to many other chemical products found in cigarettes. This can have a real and dangerous impact over the short, medium and long term. Unfortunately, when your child is born, we won’t be able to tell you how it will be affected.
There are many possible impacts, such as low birth weight or more difficult temperament. Longer term, learning disorders, speech disorders, increased diagnosis of hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder (ADD), behavioural disorders, more asthma and a predisposition to consuming tobacco products and other substances later in life may occur.
After childbirth, you might be wondering if it’s okay or not to breastfeed your baby if you smoke. I will provide you with details in the next section about tobacco and breastfeeding.