The risks of smoking while pregnant are well known and widely communicated. These are many and include:
- Lowering the amount of oxygen available to you and your growing baby.
- Increase in your baby’s heart rate.
- Increase in the chances of miscarriage and stillbirth.
- Increase in the risk that your baby is born prematurely and/or born with low birth weight.
- Increase in your baby’s risk of developing respiratory (lung) problems.
- Increases risks of birth defects.
- Increases risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
To add on all the above a new study suggests that mothers who smoke are putting the lives of their boys at greater risk in the future. Young men whose mothers smoked during pregnancy had lower aerobic fitness compared to those whose mothers did not. People need aerobic fitness because it is any of various sustained exercises, as jogging, rowing, swimming, or cycling, that stimulate and strengthen the heart and lungs, thereby improving the body’s utilization of oxygen.
A small Finnish study in BJOG: an International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (BJOG), has examined the impact of maternal smoking on the long-term health of male offspring. Of the 508 young men (average age 19) included in the study 59 of their mothers smoked more than one cigarette a day throughout pregnancy. Results found that maternal smoking was associated with lower aerobic fitness of their children, which was measured by ability on a running test at the beginning of their military service assessment. Aerobic activity was also independently associated with their own smoking status, weight and physical activity. The study also found that higher maternal pre-pregnancy BMI and excessive weight gain during pregnancy were associated with lower aerobic fitness in the offspring.
“It’s well established that smoking and breathing in second-hand smoke are harmful for both mother and baby. Our study adds to the existing evidence base of the negative and long-standing impacts of maternal smoking. Women must receive advice and support to help them stop smoking during pregnancy, as well guidance on how to maintain a healthy weight to minimise the risks to their unborn child.” Dr Maria Hagnäs, lead scientist.
Dr Geeta Kumar, Chair of the RCOG‘s Patient Information Committee, said: “Stopping smoking is one of the most important things a pregnant woman can do to improve their baby’s health, growth and development, and this study demonstrates the negative effect smoking in pregnancy can have on a child’s long-term health too.
“It is important that women understand the risks of smoking in pregnancy and are aware of the support that is available to help them stop. Women who are unable to quit smoking should be encouraged to abstain during their pregnancy, use nicotine replacement therapy, or to reduce smoking as much as they can. We encourage all healthcare professionals working with pregnant women to access the RCOG’s new patient information leaflet which contains practical and evidence-based advice and guidance to share with women about smoking during pregnancy.”
If you needed one more reason for you to put away that smoke, here it is.