Smoking during pregnancy causes great health risks to both mother and child and is considered the single most important and changeable risk factor for improving health outcomes. Despite the well-documented health effects of smoking during pregnancy, approximately 11 percent of women in the U.S. smoke during their pregnancy.
The rates of spontaneous or recent quitters, women who smoked prior to conception and quit after learning they were pregnant, range from 25 to 60 percent. Many recent quitters relapse during pregnancy or postpartum, either because they never intended to stay quit or because their mentality changes and they give themselves permission to smoke again.
Data from the National Health Interview Survey indicate that 27 percent of children under the age of six live in a house where someone smokes inside at least four days per week. While most people are aware that smoking while pregnant can harm the unborn baby, it is important to point out that smoking and smoke in the environment lead to many health complications for the mother and the baby both before and after birth.
Smoking before pregnancy:
- Reduces fertility and delays conception
- Increases the risk for pregnancy complications, including placenta previa, placental abruption, and premature rupture of the fetal membrane
Smoking during pregnancy:
- Can affect the amount of oxygen and nutrients the baby receives
- Has been shown to cause placental abruption or separation and miscarriages
- Is associated with restricted fetal growth and development
- Attributes to 20% of low birth weight deliveries
- Increases the risk of a premature birth
- Increases the baby’s chance of having to stay in the intensive care unit
- Increases the risk of prenatal mortality
Compared to infants and children of non-smokers, infants and children exposed to tobacco smoke:
- Have more respiratory problems, including bronchitis and pneumonia
- Are more likely to get asthma
- Are five times more likely to have ear infections
- Require more visits to the doctor
- Are more likely to be hospitalized during the first two years of life
- Are three times more likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
- Have a higher risk of developing behavior problems
- Are more likely to have trouble with schoolwork
- Are more likely to become smokers themselves