Smoking and Miscarriage

The Smoke Is Killing Us

Smoking, like any addiction, is hard to give up. Nicotine is a narcotic and, as such, creates a dependency in those who use it. However, when the smoker is pregnant, or is around a pregnant woman, the impact of the chemicals in the cigarettes is extremely detrimental to the health and wellbeing of the unborn baby - not to mention the mother herself. It is well-known that smoking is a leading cause of cancer, heart disease, stroke, and gum disease. Eye diseases that can lead to blindness can also be caused by smoking.

Smoking during pregnancy exposes the baby to dangerous chemicals that can rob oxygen from the blood, retarding growth and endangering the baby's lungs as they develop. Nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide, all emitted from cigarettes when a person smokes, filter down to the unborn baby in the womb. If the father is a heavy smoker, there is a risk of miscarriage through the effects of nicotine on the sperm.

Altering Chromosomes with Cigarettes

In several studies determining the effect of smoking on sperm, it was found that men who smoke heavily tend to have sperm with abnormal morphology and motility (shape and movement). We know that the majority of early miscarriages are the result of abnormal chromosomes and men who smoke heavily or heavy exposure of the mother to smoke (whether she smokes or receives it second hand) have chromosomal abnormalities. Also, mothers who smoke can alter the lining of the uterus to where it becomes hostile to an embryo that is trying to implant. In all of these cases, miscarriage is the result.

Studies that looked at the link between smoking and miscarriage where the baby had normal chromosomes found that blood oxygen starvation to the uterus diminished the capacity of the placenta to transport oxygen and nutrients to the growing fetus.

Smoking causes blood vessels to constrict and reduces the amount of life-giving oxygen to organs, and to a developing baby. Late term miscarriages are linked to smoking as well as stillbirth and death of the infant within the first year.

Birth Outcome Risks

Cigarette smoking (or cigar smoking) while pregnant doubles the risk of several possible birth outcomes:

· miscarriage

· stillbirth

· ectopic pregnancy

· vaginal bleeding

· placental abruption - where the placenta separates from the uterine wall before the baby is born

· placenta previa - where the placenta lies low in the womb and covers, either partially or fully, the cervix

We can add the impact on the unborn baby to this list of harmful situations:

· birth defects

· cleft palate

· premature birth and all that is attendant

· low birth weight baby

· underweight for gestation period

On top of these things, a baby born prematurely and at a low birth weight is at risk for other serious complications, health problems and potentially lifelong disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation and delayed development. In some cases, a baby dies because of complications of a premature birth.

Second Hand Smoke

It isn't only the mother's smoking habit that can potentially damage or even kill the unborn baby. Even if she doesn't smoke but is around people who do, she is exposed to second and even third hand smoke.

As mentioned previously, second hand smoke can negatively affect the chromosomes in both mother and father, can affect the uterine lining, and can potentially affect the ability of the woman to maintain a pregnancy. Second hand smoke can result in a low birth weight baby. It is also extremely dangerous to newborns, infants, and young children. Babies that are exposed to second hand smoke are:

· more likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

· at greater risk for asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, ear infections, respiratory symptoms

· at risk for slow lung growth

Third Hand Smoke

To compound matters even further, there's the issue of third hand smoke. This isn't actually the smoke itself; it is the residue that is left after the smoke has cleared the room. It is made up of all the toxins and particles that remain in the carpet, furniture, clothing, draperies, and hair. These toxins include lead, arsenic and carbon monoxide. They are the very things that are telltale signs of a smoker - you can smell them long after the person is gone.

Driving with the window cracked isn't going to make much of a difference for babies (or adults) who are breathing these toxins. Asthma, respiratory problems, learning disorders and cancers are all the "gifts" of second and third hand smoke.

If you are pregnant and smoking - quit. If you are living with a smoker, ask that person to quit or, if that isn't going to happen, remove yourself from the presence of the smoke. Miscarriage is a painful experience for any woman. Smoking is one miscarriage risk factor you have control over. Learn more about miscarriage in this section.

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