Studies conducted world-wide over the past 25 years confirm that cigarette smoking has a marked effect on the outcome of pregnancy for mothers and babies. These findings were consistent, even after allowing for a range of biological, behavioural, socio-economic and psychological factors as well as the influence of alcohol, caffeine, stress and maternal nutrition.
The association between maternal smoking, low birth weight babies, infant death and ill-health are well established, as are the risks to the mother’s own health. Even mothers exposed to passive smoking delivered lighter babies. However, this data demonstrates that smoking in pregnancy presents more serious implications than just a small baby.
The overall view obtained from the research shows a significantly increased risk of the following:
• Raised blood pressure
• Premature delivery
• Premature rupture of membranes
• Neonatal death (death in the first month)
• Perinatal mortality (death in the first year)
• Perinatal morbidity (impaired health and development throughout childhood)
• Underweight and underdeveloped baby at birth
Some mid- to long-term effects of smoking include bronchitis and respiratory illnesses as well as ear, nose and throat infections. If breastfeeding, beware that nicotine can enter your milk.
The research done on alcohol intake is less conclusive. Available evidence does not support absolute abstinence from alcohol in pregnancy, but recommends that consumption should be limited to a glass of wine once or twice a week.