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Pregnancy is an exciting yet a critical phase in a woman's life. Her eating habits, lifestyle practices can directly or indirectly influence the pregnancy as well as the baby. The harmful effects of smoking, especially during pregnancy require no special mention. In addition to the active smoking, increased exposure to passive smoking or second-hand smoke (8 cigarettes or more throughout the day) can negatively influence the overall development of the baby. Mentioned below are some of the deleterious effects that make it necessary for a woman to stay away from active as well as passive smoking during pregnancy.

Abnormally low birth-weight and premature birth:

Nicotine has been found to stall the fetal growth in the uterus to a great extent. As a result, women exposed to prolonged and increased passive smoking often have babies with a low birth weight. Nicotine interferes with the supply of oxygen to the fetus, reducing it significantly. There is also a sharp fall in the blood circulation of the fetus, all thanks to passive smoking! The second-hand smoke is also known to trigger PROM or Premature Rupture of Membrane resulting in premature births. Not only the baby but the health of the mother also takes a beating giving rise to complications such as Anemia, High blood pressure, and Hypertension, to name a few.

Increased incidence of Miscarriage:

Research suggests that inhaling the harmful and toxic smoke of tobacco during pregnancy (more than 15 cigarettes) makes a pregnant woman more susceptible to miscarriages.

SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome:

Also known as Crib Death, SIDS is an unfortunate condition characterized by a sudden and unexplained death (with no prior health problems) in a healthy infant who is generally less than a year old. Some Research suggests that the SIDS is often found to be an outcome of premature birth, low-birth weight, some infections (especially of the respiratory system such as pneumonia, bronchitis), a weak immune system, and also brain defects which are often influenced by active or passive smoking during pregnancy.

Birth defects:

It is a misconception that only active smoking results in birth defects. Being subjected to the harmful and toxic smoke during pregnancy can also give rise to gastrointestinal disorders, certain physical deformities such as cleft lips, shortened limbs, to name a few in the infant. The cognitive and neurophysiological growth and development of the child also takes a beating with many children suffering from learning, speech, and behavioral disorders and many related problems.

Tobacco abuse:

Active or passive smoking during pregnancy exposes the baby to the harmful smoke, especially nicotine while still in the womb. In addition to the physical and mental disorders and complications, an interesting research suggests that incidences of tobacco or substance abuse are also relatively higher in such children (especially during their adolescents or teenage period).

Mentioned below are some tips that can help a pregnant woman deal with passive smoking better.

Before you plan to go the family way, make sure you or your partner give up smoking. Professional help such as counseling sessions and rehabilitation programs may be helpful. In the workplace, try and maintain a distance from people who are into smoking (even if it is 2-3 cigarettes a day). In case of any complications or discomfort, consult the attending physician at the earliest.

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