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    Diseases & conditions : Pregnancy and Childbirth

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    Smoking and Pregnancy

    The risks involved with smoking during pregnancy

    Fewer women are smoking during their pregnancy now than in the past. But 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:

    • Low birthweight

    • Preterm birth

    • Stillbirths

    • Increased risk of birth defects

    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

    • Behavioral problems

    • Childhood obesity

    • Infantile colic

    The mother, too, may experience problems during her pregnancy as a result of smoking, including the following:

    • Placental complications

    • Preterm labor

    • 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 negative 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.