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The Dangers of Secondhand Smoke

You already know that mothers who smoke cause harm to their unborn babies. But did you know that your baby can also be harmed by people smoking around you?

Secondhand smoke is a complex chemical mixture of more than 4,000 chemicals (more than 50 of them cancer-causing), and it's associated with a number of pregnancy complications. For instance, new research reveals that nonsmoking pregnant women who have been exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to have babies with health problems such as low birthweight and intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) (see "Common Questions," page 284); those babies also are more likely to have an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Furthermore, according to a recent study done by researchers at Columbia University's Center for Children's Environmental Health, children whose mothers were exposed to secondhand smoke during pregnancy scored lower on cognitive development tests at age 2 than children from smoke-free homes.

The bottom line? Even if you don't smoke, avoid being in smoke-filled rooms while you're pregnant. This is easier to do now that many restaurants and other public places have banned smoking; however, ask your friends and family members who smoke to take it outside too. If they won't, then go to a different room or head outdoors yourself so you -- and your baby -- get a breath of fresh air while the others light up.


Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.