Smoking During Pregnancy Increases the Risk of Birth Defects

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Smoking by mothers-to-be harmful to unborn babies

The probability of babies being born with birth defects increases when expectant mothers smoke through their pregnancies. The defects may include skull deformities, missing or deformed limbs, and protrusion of the gastro-intestinal system, skin problems, and cardiac problems. Moreover, smoking during pregnancy increases the chances of miscarriage, lower birth rate, and premature births.

Analyzing the birth defects

Although, it is difficult to predict the exact number of birth defects as a result of smoking, the Kansas Medical Center website mentions this number to be between three and five percent per annum. Moreover, the Environmental Protection Agency study found that birth defects in white babies were one percent. In comparison, the black babies born with deformities were 1.3% per year. The commonest consequence of smoking on unborn babies was a heart condition, which accounted for one in every eight congenital problematic birth.

Smoking by expectant mothers high

Although, the harmful effects of smoking are well known, a high percentage of pregnant women in America continue smoking though their pregnancies. Approximately twenty percent of expectant mothers smoke in the United States. The highest number of expecting mothers who smoke is the teenagers while the lowest percentage is in women aged over thirty-five years. Moreover, uneducated and poor women tend to smoke more than women who are well educated and working in a good job.

Effects of smoking

The analysis included data collected over fifty years. The study found an increase in the following birth deformities when pregnant women smoked during the pregnancy.

  • Skull defects increase – 33%
  • Babies born with club foot – 28%
  • Cleft lip or palate – 28%
  • Gastro-intestinal defects – 27%
  • Deformed or missing limbs – 26%
  • Heart conditions – 10%
  • Gastro-schisis – 50%

Study did not analyze the reasons

However, the study did not include how smoking caused the above-mentioned birth defects. Nonetheless, it is known that smoke comprises over four thousand chemicals, which are teratogenic that is known to interfere with the development of the fetus. In addition, the carbon monoxide present in the cigarette smoke constricts the blood vessels. This impairs the blood circulation within the expecting mothers’ blood vessels, which may limit the oxygen flow to the fetus leading to the birth defects. With the results of the study, it is expected to improve the education among women to quit smoking before they get pregnant or early in the pregnancies.