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Health Consequences - Smoking and Pregnancy

Smoking and pregnancy - what are the risks?

In the United States, it is estimated that 18 percent of pregnant women smoke during their pregnancies. Carbon monoxide and nicotine from tobacco smoke may interfere with the oxygen supply to the fetus. Nicotine also readily crosses the placenta, with concentrations in the fetus reaching as much as 15 percent higher than maternal levels. Nicotine concentrates in fetal blood, amniotic fluid, and breast milk. Combined, these factors can have severe consequences for the fetuses and infants of smoking mothers. Smoking during pregnancy caused an estimated 910 infant deaths annually from 1997 through 2001, and neonatal care costs related to smoking are estimated to be more than $350 million per year.

The adverse effects of smoking during pregnancy can include fetal growth retardation and decreased birth weights. The decreased birth weights seen in infants of mothers who smoke reflect a dose–dependent relationship—the more the woman smokes during pregnancy, the greater the reduction of infant birth weight. These newborns also display signs of stress and drug withdrawal consistent with what has been reported in infants exposed to other drugs. In some cases, smoking during pregnancy may be associated with spontaneous abortions, sudden infant death syndrome, as well as learning and behavioral problems in children. In addition, smoking more than a pack a day during pregnancy nearly doubles the risk that the affected child will become addicted to tobacco if that child starts smoking.

Maintaining a smoke-free lifestyle and environment during pregancy greatly enhances your odds of delivering a beautiful, healthy baby.