For most expecting mothers, it is not the thought of their own health that makes them quit smoking. After hearing the good news, every woman has a focus shift in terms of priority. And, the baby’s well-being becomes so important that kicking the habit does not seem like a big deal. We all know that if expecting mothers smoke during pregnancy, it is harmful to both them as well as their babies. Cigarettes contain carbon monoxide, nicotine, and other poisonous substances, which enters the bloodstream and can travel to your little one directly (1). But, it is one addictive substance (all thanks to nicotine) that is really hard to let go. If you are struggling through something similar, it is important to understand the gravity of the situation. Knowing about the potential future inconveniences may help you kick that butt (pun intended).
Smoking during pregnancy can result in (2):
- Reduced oxygen supply to both you and your baby
- It may increase the heart rate of your baby
- There is an increased chance of stillbirth or miscarriage
- The baby is more likely to be born premature or with low birth weight
- The baby is more prone to developing a respiratory disease or a lung problem
- There is more risk for the baby to suffer from Sudden Death Infant Syndrome (SIDS)
What Does The Study Say?
Now that you are all up-to-date with the theory bit of it, you must be wondering whether there is any research to prove the harmful effects of smoking. Trust us, there are plenty. However, a recent study conducted by the researchers from Lancaster and Durham universities has stunned one and all. They used the four-dimensional (4-D) ultrasound images to chronicle the movements of a fetus’ body inside mother when the soon-to-be mom took in the smoke. The findings and the results were published in the scientific journal – “Acta Paediatrica” (3).
The study involved chronicling 20 fetuses from the 24th week up to the 36th week of gestation. Around 80 ultrasounds were taken by the researchers during the course of the experiment. Of these 20 cases, there were 16 babies who had a non-smoking mother and the remaining four had a smoking mother. The ones who smoked had nearly 14 cigarettes in a day.
In the above ultrasound image, the top row and the bottom row show the babies of smoking and non-smoking mothers respectively. In the top row, you can observe that the babies are moving their mouths and covering their faces. According to the researchers, the pictures indicate that the mouth of the fetus of smoking mothers move much more significantly as compared to the normal movements expected during pregnancy.
This higher-than-normal movement of baby’s mouth proves that nicotine can be pretty harmful to unborn infants. These images indicate that the development of the fetal nervous system may be compromised if the little ones are exposed to smoke inside the womb. In fact, the damage to the nervous system might be much more even in comparison to the impact stress and depression has.
All these 20 babies were medically assessed after their births. Fortunately, all of them were born healthy. And, both the authors of the study, Dr. Nadja Reissland and professor Brian Francis, agreed that further research needs to be done. This will help them understand the specifics of the increased rate of the babies’ facial movements in scenarios where the mother continues to smoke during pregnancy.
With the technological advancements over the years, we can finally see what we could not before. Using ultrasound images to understand the impact of smoking on fetal development is a much-needed breakthrough. This only furthers the evidence we previously had regarding the same. And, isn’t that great?
To all the soon-to-be mommies out there, kick this habit during pregnancy to ensure your baby’s well-being. Good luck!