While it may be common knowledge that smoking and pregnancies do not and should not go together, most of the people touting this assertion are not informed (albeit well-meaning) when it comes to the actual science behind this conclusion. Indeed, most of us know that the nicotine and carbon monoxide absorbed into the mother’s blood stream and lungs also reaches the fetus. However, this is not the only problem. As discovered by Doctor J. M. Rogers, in his 2009 report regarding cigarette smoke, it also contains an impressive number of 4,000 other toxic substances, among which the greatest health-threat is posed by heavy metals (such as, for example, lead). While some pre-term babies can go on to lead healthy lives, those born significantly before term, from mothers who engage in heavy smoking, often turn out to suffer from crippling, life-long afflictions.
Smoking May Cause a Very Pre-Term Delivery
A scientific study published in 2005, and completed by several researchers from the Division of Obstetrics and Gynecology from the Karolinska Institute Danderyd Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden, established once and for all that smoking tobacco cigarettes will most likely result in a pre-term delivery of the baby. The Swedish doctors specifically analyzed pregnancy that ended in delivery a long way ahead of term, during two different areas of the Swedish capital, over the 1988-1992 timeframe. They only looked at single-born babies, born before the thirty-second week of pregnancy, and strictly at those cases in which the babies had survived. The control group consisted of 295 single babies born at 37 weeks or later.
The doctors also took other risk factors into account, such as other traits and behavioral patterns of the mother, other complications that may have occurred prior to delivering the child, as well as other causes that usually determine premature births. The results were incontestable: mothers who smoked up to nine cigarettes per day had a 1.4 rate of very premature deliveries, while heavy smokers had a 2.9 rate according to the same criterion. Meanwhile, the risks of a very early birth were also comparable: 1.9 for moderate smokers and 2.6 for heavy smokers. Other premature delivery-inducing factors were associated with smoking, such as premature ruptures of membranes, or bleeding late in the pregnancy.
To Quit or Not to Quit
While most expectant mothers agree that smoking is harmful to their unborn baby, the issue of quitting is still hotly debated. Some OBGyns, for instance, espouse the view that a female smoker who has learned of her pregnancy should never quit cold turkey. For one thing, they say, it takes about six months for the mother’s organism to fully clear of the toxins and harmful substances, so quitting during one’s first trimester, while ever the daunting task, might also be irrelevant to the eventual outcome of the birth. Moreover, some doctors advise against quitting cold turkey, since it may result in withdrawal episodes, which are highly harmful for the baby.
A report published in 2007 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 21 per cent of pregnant women are heavy smokers, i.e. smoke over ten cigarettes per day. About half of them quit while pregnant, and some 50 per cent of non-quitters cease their habit after delivering the baby. One way to quit in a hassle-free, non-stressful manner is to use electronic cigarettes, which provide a similar experience to smoking tobacco products, but can be enjoyed in nicotine-free variants. Since electronic cigarettes produce no smoke, they also don’t contain any of the 4,000+ toxic substances found in traditional cigarette smoke. What is more, they can also be used indoors, relieving the expectant mother of the troublesome experience of having to use the outdoors, in her efforts of kicking the damaging habit.