Smoking during pregnancy • Danger for the child

Pregnant women who smoke expose themselves and their babies to numerous health risks. Therefore, women should stop smoking at the latest at the beginning of pregnancy. If you find this difficult, you can get professional help.

It is best for smokers who want to have children to stop smoking – if possible before they want to become pregnant. Because tobacco consumption has a negative effect on fertility, just like alcohol consumption: nicotine and other substances contained in tobacco smoke can damage both the ovaries and the uterus, as well as the growing child.

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Consequences of smoking during pregnancy

If a woman is pregnant, every cigarette harms the unborn child: With every drag that a pregnant woman takes, the child suffers from an acute lack of oxygen. The woman not only exposes her own body to the toxins in tobacco smoke, but also the organism of the growing child in her womb. The substances enter the blood through the woman’s lungs. Most of the toxins in tobacco smoke can pass unfiltered into the bloodstream of the fetus via the placenta and umbilical cord.

This increases the risk of prenatal complications and numerous illnesses and health problems in the child, such as:

  • Pregnancy complications such as placenta detachment, premature rupture of membranes, spontaneous abortion

  • Miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth

  • lower birth weight

  • smaller birth size

  • insufficiently developed lungs

  • physical deformities

  • Nicotine withdrawal symptoms in the newborn

  • higher risk of asthma and chronic bronchitis

  • higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome

  • weaker immune system, increased tendency to infections and allergies

  • increased risk of ADHD in the growing child

  • Metabolic disorders in adulthood such as diabetes mellitus or obesity

  • more nicotine receptors in the child’s brain and therefore a higher probability that the child will smoke later

Due to the vasoconstrictive effect of nicotine and the oxygen-displacing effect of carbon monoxide, the uterus and placenta, for example, are not supplied with enough blood. As a result, the transport of oxygen and important nutrients to the unborn child is disrupted, and its healthy development suffers as a result. Smoking is now thought to be responsible for 15 percent of all preterm births and up to 30 percent of all low birth weight cases.

Cigarette smoke is so toxic

Tobacco smoke is made up of around 4,800 different substances, of which around 250 are toxic and 90 have been proven to be carcinogenic. These substances include not only nicotine and carbon monoxide, but also pollutants such as arsenic, hydrocyanic acid, benzene, methanol, heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and nickel, solvents, preservatives and tar. Nicotine is one of the most powerful poisons for the human body. It constricts blood vessels, decreases blood flow, increases heart rate, increases blood pressure, and is addictive. Carbon monoxide massively inhibits the transport of oxygen in the body. Other substances in tobacco smoke are mutagenic, have a negative effect on blood formation or lead to pathological changes in organs or the metabolism.

How harmful is passive smoking during pregnancy?

Even if the mother is passively exposed to the smoke, studies show a clear connection with a low birth weight in the child. Babies and young children who grow up in households with parents who smoke suffer from it more often than average

than children in non-smoking households. Passive smoking by the child in the womb or after birth is also considered a possible cause of sudden infant death syndrome.

Quitting smoking during pregnancy: tips and help

It is healthiest for the child if the pregnant woman and her partner stop smoking at the latest by the time the pregnancy begins. Quitting nicotine is worth it, because it gives the baby a healthy start in life.

Despite knowledge of the health consequences, around a quarter of smokers do not manage to give up nicotine during and after pregnancy. For others, the biggest motivator for quitting smoking is the child growing inside the mother’s womb. The same tips for quitting smoking apply to pregnant women:

  • determined to give up cigarettes

  • Set day X for quitting smoking

  • Strategies against nicotine hunger and relapses

  • Behavioral therapy, online courses or smoking cessation courses can help

Women who find it difficult to stop smoking during pregnancy can get help. Gynecologists, health insurance companies or a midwife are the right place to go for advice or special programs to help you quit smoking. Many health insurance companies provide financial support for efforts to become smoke-free.

Ten steps to non smoking

Nicotine patches or chewing gum during pregnancy

Nicotine replacement products such as nicotine patches or chewing gum are used to make it easier for smokers to physically withdraw from the addictive substance nicotine. The benefit of such nicotine replacement therapy during pregnancy has not yet been established. Nicotine replacement therapy is believed to be less harmful than continuing to smoke. Nevertheless, the health consequences for the unborn child are unclear and, ideally, substitute products containing nicotine should be avoided.

E-cigarettes for pregnant women?

E-cigarettes are also not a recommended alternative for pregnant women. There are e-cigarettes with and without nicotine. In addition, they are filled with a variety of different liquids, some of which you have mixed yourself, which then evaporate in the cigarette and are released into the environment through the air you breathe. Exactly what is inhaled and exhaled remains unclear. With e-cigarettes, health risks can arise not only from the nicotine, but also from the nebulizing agent propylene glycol, various chemicals, fragrances and flavorings. There is also evidence that certain brands release carcinogenic aldehydes. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) therefore recommends treating e-cigarettes in the private sphere like conventional cigarettes and not exposing children or pregnant women to the vapor.

No smoking even after pregnancy

Women who manage to quit smoking during pregnancy are better at staying non-smokers after giving birth. Because with the consumption of tobacco they do neither themselves nor their newborns anything good. On the one hand, toxins and harmful substances from tobacco also pass into breast milk. Secondhand smoke exposes the child to other health risks.

Ten good reasons to quit smoking

Source: Lifeline | Das Gesundheitsportal by

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