If women are smoking before they get pregnant, many of them continue smoking well into their pregnancies. Of course, this can cause harm to both mothers and babies, and they should stop smoking immediately. But it seems life just isn’t that easy for expectant mothers.

A Colourful cigarette -
Creative Commons License Valentin Ottone via Compfight

It’s hard enough for women to try to stop smoking. Some drugs that work well with men don’t work as well with women. That, plus women have different reasons for smoking than men, some of them emotional, and that’s harder to overcome that just a straight addiction to cigarettes. When a woman finds out she’s pregnant, she might be happy, but whether she is or isn’t, there’s now a new level of stress and anxiety that she has to deal with.

That, plus the body already starts changing. The immune system of pregnant women actually decreases when they get pregnant because the body starts making adjustments to taking care of the baby. Therefore, damages from smoking that usually take a very long time to overcome bodies normally will harm a pregnant woman faster and more immediate.

When a pregnant women smoke, chemicals like nicotine get into the umbilical cord that connects the mother and baby. What happens then is there’s less oxygen and food getting to the baby, which affects the growth of the baby. This can result in low birth weight or the baby suffering from respiratory problems after birth. This could also lead to premature birth of the baby, as the chemicals can lead to the birth sac rupturing early in some mothers, causing internal bleeding and endangering the lives of both the mother and baby.

There’s more. Infant mortality rates are 50% higher for babies whose mother’s smoked. Those that make it have problems early on with their immune systems, and are 40% more likely to contract a fatal disease within the first 3 months of their lives. And new studies are showing that if the mother smoked during pregnancy, and the child starts smoking at any point in their lives, it will be much harder for them to stop smoking because the nicotine pattern has already been imprinted into their brain.

So, the most logical step seems to be telling mothers to stop. And, if mothers can stop smoking within the first four months of being pregnant, there’s little damage, if any, that they’ll impart upon the baby.

However, there are some issues with this.

One, if the mothers struggle with things such as severe nicotine addiction while trying to quit, that stress will be passed on to the baby. The good news there is that there’s no evidence that babies suffer any ill effects once they’re born.

Two, once pregnant, some options to help suppress smoking urges are no longer viable, such as certain drugs or things like nicotine gum or patches. And three, expectant mothers are usually told to give up other things once they’re pregnant, so the combination of all these other things and the cessation of smoking can intensify the feelings already associated with giving up cigarettes.

Overall, there shouldn’t even be a question as to whether pregnant women should give up cigarettes, or any other bad things they may be putting into their bodies. Once pregnant, it’s someone else’s life they should be considering, but doing that also improves their lives more than they could imagine.

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