What are the Risks of Second Hand Smoke and Pregnancy?

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  • Written By: Laura M. Sands
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 25 November 2019
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Second hand smoke and pregnancy is a potentially deadly combination. Also known as passive smoking or involuntary smoking, a pregnant mother’s exposure to second hand smoke sends thousands of toxic chemicals and hundreds of identifiable poisons, including several known to cause cancer, directly to her unborn baby. Second hand smoke and pregnancy is also known to cause miscarriages, affect the lung capacity of children, increase the chances of a stillbirth and increase the chances of a child dying from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

The effects of second hand smoke and pregnancy also extend to the delivery room. A woman exposed to the carcinogens and other harmful chemicals present in cigarette smoke is more likely to have a difficult time delivering her baby. Also, a breastfeeding woman who has experienced second hand smoke exposure will pass the chemicals she has inhaled directly to her baby at feeding time, even if the smoke she came in contact with was inhaled much earlier in the day.


One contributing factor of low birth weight in newborns is directly related to second hand smoke and pregnancy. Children born with this condition often experience an array of other problems as a result. A few of these problems include neurological disorders, bronchitis, sinus and respiratory infections, middle ear infections, cerebral palsy and learning disorders. Children born with low birth weight also experience lengthy hospital stays and many die as a result of complications related to their size and weight. The effects of second hand smoke and pregnancy are, therefore, of serious detriment to fetus health, as well as a threat to a child’s growth, development, health and quality of life in the future.

Second hand smoke does not only occur through direct inhalation of cigarette smoke. Cigarette smoke lingers long after a cigarette smoker has left an area or extinguished a cigarette. Residual smoke and dangerous chemicals present in cigarettes remain in the air, in clothing, draperies, upholstery, skin and hair. While individuals who are aware of the dangers of second hand smoke and pregnancy do well to not smoke around expectant mothers, many do not realize what remains even after a lit cigarette is removed from her presence.

Health experts agree that second hand smoke and pregnancy are detrimental to unborn babies. Children who may survive the effects of smoke-related complications still may suffer from chronic complications, such as bronchitis, asthma, mental retardation and learning disabilities for the rest of their lives. While ventilation systems are often installed in public places in an attempt to separate smokers from nonsmokers, research suggests that such is not enough to protect pregnant moms and others from the dangers of cigarette smoke.



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