The perils of cigarette smoking to pregnancy

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Monday, December 5, 2011

THE research of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the US maintains in an online post through social networking sites that smoking during pregnancy causes a multitude of health problems for both the woman and her unborn baby such as complicated pregnancies, premature birth, low birth weight, stillbirth and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Experts agree that cigarette smoking by a pregnant woman increases her risk to have a mentally retarded child.

According to Connie Marshall, an American certified nurse-midwife and an advanced practice nurse in obstetrics, despite the dangers that cigarette smoking poses to the mother and her fetus, 20 to 30 percent of childbearing age women still smoke.


In a 2008 study by the Pregnancy Risk Assessment and Monitoring System (PRAMS) in the U.S., it found that 13 percent of women reported smoking during the last trimester of their pregnancy.

According to the statistical data of an independent group of health researchers in the U.S., one in every five adult women smokes regularly.
In 1994, the Young Adult Fertility surveyed 11,000 Filipino women aged 15 to 24 years old and they discovered that the average age that the said population under study started smoking was 17.

But how does smoking affect pregnancy?

Marshall explains that smoking causes the pregnant woman’s blood vessels to constrict, thus reducing the blood flow carrying nutrients and oxygen to the baby.

One textbook for obstetric practice supports the claim of Marshall as nicotine is known to be a vasoconstrictor or causes narrowing of the blood vessels, including the placenta, which is the source of the baby’s nutrition and oxygen while inside the mother’s womb.

Over time, the reduction in oxygen supply to the baby’s brain may cause such irreversible problems as mental retardation, which is not apparent immediately at birth.

Health advocates claim that a pregnant woman who smokes 20 sticks a day or more will give birth to a baby that will weigh approximately have pound less than he or should be at birth.

Medical literatures also share that smoking prevents the absorption of vitamin C and calcium by the mother and her baby. A deficiency in vitamin C may result to a weakened immune system while calcium deficiency weakens the bones with the possibility of developing osteoporosis later in the life of the woman.

The demographic data among previous studies conducted in the US also reveal that smoking is the largest most preventable cause of congenital defects, preterm births and miscarriage accounting to 20 to 40 percent of all cases.

In a 1997 study of concerned nurse-midwives and health academicians in the US, it was found that babies of mother who smoked during pregnancy are two times more likely to experience a sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), death occurring among babies without any immediate obvious cause.

When taking smoking into maternal health consideration, it must also be highlighted to include second-hand smoke.

Studies have also proven that pregnant women who breathe other people’s cigarette smoke are likely to experience the dangers and risks faced by pregnant women who smoke.

It is then a challenge for all concerned individuals of all walks of life to work together for a smoke-free environment for the benefit of the pregnant population with the need for clean air.

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Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on December 06, 2011.


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