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Smoking During Pregnancy: Understanding the Risks and Strategies for Quitting

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Smoking cigarettes and other tobacco products can cause serious health issues for a pregnant person and fetus. Health officials strongly advise people not to smoke while they are pregnant.

Cigarettes contain toxic chemicals that a person breathes in when they smoke. If a person smokes while pregnant, these chemicals can also affect the fetus.

This article will detail the effects of smoking while pregnant, including the effects of secondhand smoke and e-cigarettes.

Smoking at any time during a pregnancy can harm a person and fetus.

Research from 2020 suggests that the biggest benefit can occur if a person stops smoking before 15 weeks of gestation.

If a person stops smoking before 15 weeks, it can reduceTrusted Source the risk of fetal growth restriction (FGR). FGR is a condition that can cause a baby to be smaller than average when born. The condition can result in the baby developing certain health issues, such as:

  • enlarged liver
  • hearing loss
  • inflammation in the choroid, which is part of the eye
  • blue or purple marks on the skin, known as blueberry muffin spots
  • low set ears
  • cleft palate
  • Edwards syndrome, a serious genetic condition that can affect how a baby develops and grows
  • scalp abnormality
  • close-set eyes
  • coloboma, which is an area of missing tissue in the eye
  • micrognathia, a condition that causes an undersized lower jaw
  • umbilical hernia, which is where part of the bowel pushes through a weak spot on the abdominal wall

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source state that people who smoke have more difficulty becoming pregnant. Additionally, they have a higher risk of never being able to conceive.

The CDCTrusted Source also notes that stopping smoking before becoming pregnant is safest. However, stopping smoking at any stage of pregnancy can still help prevent further problems from developing.

Smoking during pregnancy increases a person’s risk of vaginal bleeding, as well as:

  • Preterm labor: Preterm labor is when a person goes into labor too early. This can cause a baby to be born prematurely. Premature babies can have a higher risk of health problems when they are born and as they get older.
  • Ectopic pregnancy: Ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus. This can cause serious, life threatening issues for a pregnant person. Ectopic pregnancies always end in pregnancy loss.
  • Issues with the placenta: The placenta is a temporary organ that develops inside the uterus. It supplies the fetus with oxygen and nutrients. Issues with the placenta can result in preterm labor or pregnancy loss.
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