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Pregnant and smoking risky business

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Smoking is the most preventable cause of death in the United States, still more than 100,000 women in this country die each year from smoke-related health issues.

Despite all of the warnings and information, statistics from the American Lung Association show that cigarette smoking kills an estimated 173,940 women in the United States annually. Also, since 1990, teenagers and young adults have had the highest rates of smoking during pregnancy. In 2005, 16.6 percent of female teens aged 15-19 and 18.6 percent of women aged 20-24 smoked during pregnancy.

All women in their childbearing years, inhaling toxins and poisons that are not only damaging to their health but is now, putting the baby at risk of being born prematurely, low birth weight or stillborn.

Smoking allows the chemicals in the tobacco to pass through the pregnant mother’s blood stream to the fetus, presenting risks to the unborn child and the mother. According to "Our Bodies, Ourselves for the New Century," by the Boston Women's Health Book Collective,

“Smoking during pregnancy has been linked to preterm delivery, low birth weight, premature rupture of membranes, placenta previa, miscarriage, and neonatal death. Newborns whose mothers smoked during pregnancy have the same nicotine levels in their bloodstream's as adults who smoke, and they go through withdrawal during their first days of life."

Children born to smoking mothers have more visits to the doctor’s office or hospital emergency rooms with colds, ear aches, respiratory problems, and illnesses, than children of nonsmoking mothers. The toxic chemicals in cigarettes can cause a variety of problems not only for the children of the mothers who smoked during their pregnancy, but for the family as well. Long term and lifelong health problems like birth defects and cancer, involves the whole family and affects the whole family.

But there is hope; it’s never too late to quit smoking. The best time to quit smoking is before you get pregnant or as soon as you’re your pregnancy is confirmed. Quitting is the important issue. You can quit anytime during your pregnancy and still have a positive outcome.

Some benefits of quitting include:

  • Increasing oxygen to the baby
  • Lowering the risk of a premature or low birth weight baby
  • Lowering the risk of a miscarriage or stillbirth

Quitting after the baby is born has it’s benefits as well. A tobacco free environment decreases your newborn’s risk for illnesses caused by exposure to secondhand smoke, and decreases the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). To quit smoking is not easy, but worth all the effort.

Visit the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for more information and tips to quitting smoking.

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