Is it okay to smoke while pregnant?

Pregnancy is a beautiful journey, you get to grow a whole human with your body. During this journey, your body changes a lot and the growing baby is very dependent on what you feed into your body. It is usually during this time, that you have to change your lifestyle to accommodate your growing baby. You take prenatal vitamins, stop eating red meat and “sunny-side-up eggs”, and no more alcohol, just to name a few changes. One big change is to give up smoking for the 9 months and perhaps onwards if you decide to breastfeed. Some people still smoke a cigarette every now and then, telling themselves: “Just one can’t hurt”. This week’s blog will explain to you that “just one” can hurt and that it’s best to stop smoking for the couple of months that you are growing your baby.

What are the effects of smoking while pregnant?

  • Your body is in a state of repressed immunity, so firstly you will feel the effects of smoking on your own body in the following ways:
    • Increased likelihood of respiratory infections
    • Cardiovascular problems
    • Complications during delivery
    • A higher risk of miscarriage or stillbirth
    • Smoking heightens the risk of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia
  • Smoking will have a direct effect on the growing fetus as well, as the harmful chemicals are able to cross the placenta from the mother to the child:
    • Smoking impacts fetal development
    • Exposure to harmful substances interferes with placental function, reducing oxygen and nutrient supply to the fetus
    • This can lead to low birth weight, preterm birth and an increased risk of developmental issues
  • Children born to mothers that smoked while they were pregnant can also face long-term consequences:
    • These children have an increased likelihood to suffer from respiratory problems, compromised lung function, behavioural issues, cognitive impairments and an elevated risk of developing chronic diseases later in life like cardiovascular disorders and obesity.

How does smoking harm a fetus?

  • Nicotine is a highly addictive substance present in tobacco products. When a pregnant woman smokes, nicotine rapidly reaches the bloodstream and crosses the placenta, affecting fetal development. Nicotine disrupts the development of the fetal brain, leading to potential cognitive and behavioural problems.
  • Smoking exposes the mother and fetus to carbon monoxide, a toxic gas present in cigarette smoke. Carbon monoxide interferes with the oxygen-carrying capacity of red blood cells, reducing the oxygen supply to the developing fetus. Oxygen deprivation can cause cellular damage and hinder proper growth and development.
  • Tobacco smoke contains thousands of toxic chemicals, including tar, formaldehyde, and benzene. These substances are known to be harmful and can cause DNA damage, impair organ development, and disrupt normal physiological processes in the fetus.

How can I prevent myself from smoking during pregnancy

  • Speak to your doctor, they will have really great advice on how to quit smoking while you are pregnant (or full-time)
  • Tell everyone around you that you don’t want to smoke at this time. Make sure everyone knows this, so someone doesn’t offer you a cigarette by accident
  • If your co-workers, friends or family members go for a “smoke break”, you don’t have to stand with them while they are smoking. This is going to make you want to crave it, so rather make a nice cup of tea and drink it peacefully instead of joining the “smoke break”
  • If you find yourself craving a cigarette, just hold your baby bump and remember for who you are doing this in the first place.
  • If your reason for smoking is that it stops you from snacking, I have great news for you! Your body actually needs more calories while pregnant, so go ahead and pack those snacks into your lunch box! Rather opt for the healthier snack, but go ahead and snack girl!

I hope this bit of information clears a couple of things up for you. You just need to remember, that while you are pregnant, you are sharing your body with your unborn child and that you want to give them only the best. Before you know it, the time will be up and you will be able to smoke again. Or, who knows, perhaps the 9 month break helps you kick the habit alltogether!

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