Secondhand Smoke and Pregnancy

Being a non-smoker is a fantastically healthy choice.  Secondhand smoke, however, can be just as dangerous to both mom and the baby she is carrying as is smoking itself.  When a person smokes only around 15% of the smoke is inhaled by the smoker.  The other 85% floats in the air nearby along with any exhaled smoke.  This so-called second hand smoke can enter the lungs of any person near the smoker. The dangers of second hand smoke, and the risks for a developing baby, are very similar to the risks of smoking while pregnant.  In fact, the March of Dimes has stated that the adverse effects of secondhand smoke on a fetus are identical to those of firsthand smoke. Cigarettes are full of toxic chemicals.  Also, nicotine and carbon monoxide enter the blood stream of the mother and can deprive the baby of oxygen.

A few important facts about cigarette smoke are as follows:
There are nearly 4000 chemicals in cigarettes and cigarette smoke.

  • Among these chemicals,40 cause cancer and the other 200 are dangerous toxins. Some of the chemicals include ammonia, benzopyrene, nicotine, carbon monoxide lead and cyanide.
  • Any nicotine containing product is harmful, including cigars, pipes and smokeless tobacco (chew)

According to University of Louisville researchers, there are three cancer causing chemicals (carcinogens) present in tobacco that attach themselves to hemoglobin.  Hemoglobin, a component of blood, usually carries oxygen.  Therefore, instead of the hemoglobin carrying a full load of oxygen to the growing baby, it carrier carcinogens to the baby.  The baby is put at risk in two ways, by oxygen deprivation and by chemical exposure. Acrylonitrile causes liver cancer, Benzpyrene causes lung and skin cancer and 4-aminobiphenyl causes bladder cancer.  The levels of these three noxious chemicals were five times higher in newborns whose mothers were exposed to secondhand smoke as compared to those whose mothers were not exposed to tobacco smoke at all.

Dangerous Effects of Smoke on the Fetus

Some of the risks for fetuses and newborns who were exposed to tobacco smoke, either firsthand or secondhand, while in the womb are:

  • Low birth weight
  • Higher rates of miscarriage and stillbirth
  • Increased risk of genetic mutations
  • Greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Increased chances of suffering from leukemia and other cancers
  • Susceptibility to infections and diseases
  • Decreased lung functions.

Therefore pregnant women must take careful precautions to avoid secondhand smoke.  If your partner smokes tell him to quit.  While he is working on that, insist that he never smoke in your house or vehicles or anywhere near you at any time.  Avoid public places that allow smoking.

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