What are the Different Effects of Smoking During Pregnancy?

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  • Written By: Lori Smith
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 21 August 2019
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Smoking during pregnancy poses a number of health risks to the fetus and mother. Toxins such as nicotine and carbon monoxide can deprive a fetus of adequate blood supply and vital nutrients. Lung and brain development may be stunted, and children are often born prematurely and underweight as a result. Birth defects or stillbirth can also occur. Additionally, preeclampsia is more prevalent in women who smoke while they are pregnant, putting both mother and child at risk for serious complications or death.

The repercussions of smoking during pregnancy may continue to affect babies after they are born, even in cases where no obvious signs or notable birth defects are initially present. There is a higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), for example. This is a condition whereby a baby under the age of one dies for no discernible reason. Usually, SIDS occurs without any warning. The child's failure to thrive might be attributed to the exposure to thousands of toxins found in cigarette smoke.

Colic is another condition that sometimes arises due to smoking during pregnancy. This disorder can affect infants during the first few months of life, but in rare cases, it lasts much longer. When colic is present, babies show marked symptoms of distress, and it can be very difficult to soothe them. They often cry intensely for several hours at a time.


Lifelong complications are also common, such as asthma, which may occur as a result of the damaging effect of toxins on a fetus's lungs. This condition creates bouts of respiratory inflammation, which blocks the airway and makes it difficult for people to breathe when an attack occurs. Throughout a child's life, he or she may suffer from episodes of asthma caused by smoke exposure. Many times, symptoms such as wheezing and shortness of breath, are triggered by simple environmental factors, such as weather changes or exposure to pollen emitted from blooming flowers. Stressful situations, and even a family pet, may prompt asthmatic attacks.

Some children born of mothers who engaged in smoking during pregnancy suffer from mental disorders as well. Behavioral problems may develop during childhood or teen years. Children may be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or learning disabilities as a result of the nicotine and carbon monoxide they were exposed to before they were even born. Smoking during pregnancy may also lower intelligence quotient (IQ) test scores in children, according to many experts.



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