When a pregnant woman smokes, her baby smokes, too. Researchers have found the ways in which smoking during pregnancy can affect an unborn baby.
Maternal smoking can affect a fetus in a variety of ways. It can cause lung underdevelopment, increased risk of respiratory infections, asthma, and airflow limitation. We've also long thought that nicotine is the worst culprit behind the adverse effects of smoking in fetuses. However, the free radicals in cigarettes also play their role.
Smoking can affect a fetus in more ways than we know. [Photo by the National Museum of Health and Medicine]
When people smoke, they don't just inhale nicotine. Cigarettes also have several other chemicals, all of which smokers ingest. Lungs also aren't the only body parts affected by smoking. Free radicals, also known as oxidants, circulate around the body, not just the lungs. These free radicals enter the blood stream and thus affect the entire body.
“Free radicals are molecules like hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) that are highly reactive and can chemically change (similar to bleaching) tissues in the body,” says Brian Oliver, one of the researchers. “For pregnant women, the response to these chemicals extends to the developing child.”
The study also found that smoking during pregnancy increases the risks of developing other conditions in developing fetuses. Babies have an increased risk of developing chronic inflammatory conditions in their lungs, which can lead to other conditions. These conditions include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which can be any one of progressive lung diseases.
Smoking while pregnancy is a bad idea.
Doctors always tell pregnant women not to smoke, and it's a bit of wisdom that most women don't need to be told. However, some women still elect to smoke while pregnant in spite of knowing the risks. A survey found that 8.4% of women who gave birth in 2014 smoked during pregnancy.
Pregnant women who smoke cigarettes aren't the only ones who need to watch out. The effects of harmful free radicals can also be an issue for women that live in high-pollution areas. Smoking during pregnancy, pollution, and using other sources of nicotine such as electronic cigarettes can all affect a developing fetus.
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