Yes, you should definitely quit smoking if you are trying to get pregnant. An unborn baby is at high risk of many complications when the mother-to-be smokes. Everybody wants a perfect baby, but when you smoke, you are hampering your chances of a healthy baby, and in some cases of having a baby at all. Smoking rates are going down among Americans. However, the smoking rates among women are going down more slowly than smoking rates among men. In fact, smoking among high school senior girls was the same in 2000 as in 1998.
When young women who smoke start to think about having children, they also need to think about quitting smoking. The best time to quit is when you are planning to get pregnant in the near future, or after you find out that you are already pregnant. This will be better for your health and for your babies as well. Many women are able to quit during pregnancy because it is easier now than other times when they tried to quit. They can quit now for their babies and for themselves. If you feel sick in the first couple of months of quitting cigarette smoking, cigarettes may taste bad, and so it is easier to quit.
Your baby’s health would be fine if you were to quit about a month before trying to conceive. Ideally, you should have no nicotine at all in your system during pregnancy, since it constricts your blood vessels (a process called vasoconstriction) including the ones to the placenta and the baby. It is advisable that you not only quit smoking, but also avoid using other nicotine products such as the patch or gum before you conceive and during pregnancy. This may require a little planning and discipline on your part. But here is the good news. If you have been a smoker and do quit, your baby will probably weigh the same as the baby of a woman who has never smoked. Or if you quit within the first three or four months of your pregnancy you can lower your baby’s chance of being born too small and with lots of health problems.
Once you have quit before pregnancy, don’t restart after the baby is born. Even if you quit at the end of your pregnancy, you can help your baby get more oxygen and have a better chance of making it. It’s never too late to quit, but the earlier the better for both the mother and her baby!
Here are some of the many diseases and defects that your baby can be born with if you smoke before or during pregnancy:
- Abruption. Nicotine from cigarette smoking is known to cause premature separation of the fetus from the placenta, known as abruption. This causes a devastating hemorrhaging event that can result in death of the baby and possibly even to the mother.
- Vasoconstriction. Additionally, nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, which means it narrows the nutrition- and oxygen-carrying blood vessels to the baby. So each and every drag of a cigarette not only means less oxygen and nutrition to the baby’s brain and other organs, but also injures the placenta, which is the crucial life-sustaining link between mother and child.
- Low weight babies. Smoking mothers, more often than not, have babies that weigh less than normal at birth. This directly relates to your babies constitution and future health.
- Growth retardation before birth and decreased intellectual potential after birth. If you smoked before getting pregnant, the nicotine in your system can affect your child’s performance in school years later by slowing down his or her brain function.
- Risk of Leukemia. There is also evidence that smoking by the mother increases the risk that a child may develop leukemia.
- Pediatric asthma and the repeated upper respiratory infections. Infections of the lungs are more likely in a smoking home. If you have smoked when trying to conceive or during pregnancy the risk that your baby may suffer from pediatric asthma are much higher than babies by non smoking mothers.
- Premature rupture of membranes, premature labor, and premature births These birthing disorders are a higher risk with smoking mothers-to-be or pregnant women.
- Sudden infant death syndrome (crib death). Smoking by the mother has been found to be a risk factor in sudden infant death syndrome.
- Allergies. In addition, children who have been exposed to nicotine before or after birth are more prone to allergies.
In spite of all this, 26% of women of reproductive age choose to smoke, and nearly a third of them continue to do so during pregnancy. But always remember that with over 2,000 different chemicals in tobacco smoke, not one of them is nutritious or enriching for you, your baby, your family, your gender, or the generations to come.