For several decades now, doctors have continually been adamant about the need to quit smoking while pregnant. The rising numbers of pregnant women who continue to smoke indicate that this warning has not been sufficiently heeded. You might be wondering how bad it could be, but have you ever thought that infants actually react whenever their mothers smoke?
Dr. Nadja Reissland led a study conducted on twenty different fetuses over a period of twelve weeks in the Department of Psychology at Durham University. Of the surveyed fetuses, four belonged to mothers who smoked more than fourteen cigarettes on a daily basis. Researchers took a 4D ultrasound of all the 20 fetuses every three weeks.
Here is what the study revealed:
There exists a considerable difference between the fetuses of mothers who did not smoke and those of mothers who were smokers regarding facial movement patterns.
According to Durham University, the scans show that the rate of mouth movements was significantly higher in the fetuses exposed to smoke. Although the same fetuses showed higher rates of facial touching, such rates were significantly lower compared to the rate of mouth movements. You should know that the rate of facial touching and mouth movements usually decreases the more infants develop while in the womb.
Scientists believe the fetal central nervous system of infants exposed to cigarette smoke do not develop at a rate similar to that of infants not exposed to smoke. According to previously conducted studies, fetuses exposed to cigarette smoke show delayed speech processing abilities.
According to a co-authored of the study, Professor Brian Francis, the results provide a better idea regarding the adverse effects of smoking while pregnant.
Why smoking while pregnancy is so dangerous
The smoke from cigarettes contains over 4,000 chemicals, including lead, cyanide, and more than 60 cancer-causing compounds. This toxic mixture gets into a mother’s bloodstream, which is the infant’s only source of nutrients and oxygen, if the mother smokes during pregnancy.
Although none of the over 4,000 chemicals is ideal for an infant, two compounds, carbon monoxide and nicotine, are particularly harmful. According to ob-gyn James Christmas of Henrico Doctors’ Hospital in Richmond, Virginia, these two toxins are responsible for almost all smoking-related complication during pregnancy.
The smoking-related complication that affects infants either during pregnancy or after birth include but are not limited to:
• Even after full-term pregnancies, babies can be too small at birth since the harmful compounds of cigarette smoke slow down the baby’s growth
• Premature births. Unfortunately, premature babies usually suffer from various health complications
• Smoking can cause damage to the infant’s developing lungs and brain, effects of which could last throughout childhood and well into teenage years
• Doubles the risk of abnormal bleeding during both pregnancy and delivery, which often puts both the mother and baby in mortal danger
• Increases the risk of birth defects such as cleft lips and palates
• Babies exposed to cigarette smoke during pregnancy or after birth stand a higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
Thanks to technological advancement, we now have the capability to see what was previously hidden. These abilities enabled the revelation of how smoking while pregnant affects the development of fetuses. Most of these effects occur in ways we never would have imagined or realized. The results of the study were further evidence about the detrimental effects of smoking while pregnant. Fortunately, every fetus involved in this study was healthy upon birth.