How Smoking Can Affect Baby
You know that cigarettes aren't good for you, and they aren't good for your growing baby either. In fact, smoking nearly doubles your risk of having a low birth weight baby, whose odds of serious health problems and even death are greater. The good news: If you quit smoking by midpregnancy, you're no more likely to give birth to a low birth weight baby than a woman who never smoked. Even quitting late in pregnancy can increase your baby's birth weight. A new study at Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland, found that women who quit by their 32nd week reduced their risk of having a low birth weight baby to levels similar to nonsmokers.
Smokers also face an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy (when the embryo implants outside the uterus, usually in a fallopian tube) and placental complications. Placenta previa, in which the placenta attaches too low in the uterus and covers part or all of the internal opening of the cervix, is at least twice as common in smokers as in nonsmokers. So is placental abruption, in which the placenta separates from the uterine wall before a woman's delivery. If you smoke, you are also more likely to have your water break before labor begins (called premature rupture of the membranes). When this situation occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy, it often results in the birth of a premature baby.
Babies of smokers may face even more problems after birth. A study at Brown University suggested that babies of mothers who smoke throughout pregnancy may experience withdrawal-like symptoms (such as being jittery, sad, or difficult to soothe) similar to those seen in babies of mothers who use drugs. Smoking may also increase a baby's risk of various birth defects, including cleft lip, cleft palate, and clubfoot. Even more frightening is research suggesting that babies whose mothers smoked during pregnancy are more likely to die of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Why Smoking Is Still Harmful After Birth
It's also important to stay smoke-free after your baby is born. Babies who are exposed to smoke suffer from more respiratory illnesses, asthma, and ear infections than do other babies. In fact, infants whose mothers smoke are 38 percent more likely to be hospitalized for pneumonia during their first year of life than are babies of nonsmoking mothers.