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Tobacco and pregnancy are certainly connected and pregnant women who smoke or are exposed to secondhand smoke are endangering the health of themselves and of their unborn child. For instance, pregnant women who smoke increase the risk of miscarriage and preterm labor. What is more, secondhand smoke is just as dangerous as if the mother is smoking herself. The negative effects of secondhand smoke are various and this has been proved by numerous studies. Each and every pregnant woman should abstain from smoking before, during and even after pregnancy. However, this is not always possible. In case pregnant women do not opt for smoking cessation, they should at least reduce the number of cigarettes smoked.

Smoking before Pregnancy

Smoking is definitely one of the leading causes of infertility in both men and women. Couples who wish to conceive need to learn as much as they can about the effects tobacco has on one's fertility. Believe it or not smoking may directly or indirectly interfere with conception. For example, a lot of men have problems with erectile dysfunction. Most of them smoke. Therefore, smoking may interfere in men's performance. Also, men who smoke may have low sperm account, another reason why there may be difficulty conceiving. As far as women are concerned, medical experts say that a woman who smokes has a 60% more chance of being diagnosed with infertility than a woman who does not cherish this unhealthy habit. The percentage in men is a bit lower than in women (around 30%).

Smoking during Pregnancy

Various studies have confirmed that more than 10% of all pregnant women in the United States smoke during their pregnancy. A certain study reported that during the last trimester more than half of all women who smoked smoked no more than 5 cigarettes per day. The same study reported that 27% of these women smoked between 6 and 11 cigarettes every day and 21% of them consumed more than 11 cigarettes daily.

The most commonly experienced side effects of smoking during pregnancy a woman may experience are early rupture of the membranes, placenta previa, ectopic pregnancy and placental abruption. The experts agree that the chances of developing placental problems are twice as high in women who smoke during pregnancy.

Placenta previa, a complication of pregnancy is characterized by low position of the placenta in the uterus which increases the risk of miscarriage. Women with placenta previa usually undergo caesarean section instead of vaginal birth. In case of ectopic pregnancy, another potential complication due to smoking, the fetus is not implanted inside the uterus. This situation is often fatal for both the mother and the baby. Placental abruption is a condition when placenta gets separated from the attachment site before it is time. This is another situation where both mother and the fetus are endangered. If the membrane ruptures before time, this means that the labor will occur sooner than it is supposed to and the baby will not be fully developed. These situations do not usually cause death of the baby which is, however, possible.

The negative effects of smoking during pregnancy are also noticed after the child is born. Low birth weight is one of the most commonly seen problems related to smoking during pregnancy. For instance, in the year of 2004, mothers who smoked delivered low birth weight babies in almost 12% of all cases and non-smoking mothers delivered 7% of babies who were considered to have low birth weight. Low birth weight is a serious problem because these babies are at increased risk of infections and various other illnesses compared to babies born with optimal weight.

Sudden infant death syndrome is another issue that may result from smoking during pregnancy. This is the case when an infant dies without any apparent reason and even an autopsy cannot explain why the death occurred. According to available data, a child who has been exposed to smoking during pregnancy has three times more chance of experiencing sudden infant death syndrome.

Apart from the previously mentioned, there are additional problems which can occur as well like heart defects, musculoskeletal defects, limb reduction defects, facial defects, eye defects, gastrointestinal defects, hernia, skin defects and many other structural or functional abnormalities.

Finally, obesity is one of the leading health problems among teenagers nowadays and experts have found a connection between smoking during pregnancy and future obesity.

Smoking after Pregnancy

The baby continues being at risk even once he/she is born if the mother keeps on smoking. In this case the effects are associated with secondhand smoke. The baby exposed to secondhand smoke is prone to infections, especially repeated respiratory infections. Such children are also highly susceptible to asthma, Crohn’s disease, middle ear infection and are likely to develop many other diseases some of which remain for the rest of their lives. All in all, women who want to conceive and give birth to a healthy baby should definitely abstain from smoking.

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