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Second Hand Smoke Exposure in Pregnancy Increases Risks

by Alison Wood | April 9, 2013 12:00 AM
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You don't smoke, but others around you do. Are their unhealthy lifestyles affecting your little bambino? Studies say it's possible. Researchers at the University of Nottingham in the U.K. desired to analyze numerous studies on the effects of second-hand smoke on a developing baby. The studies revealed that there is a 23% increase in the risk of stillbirth and a 13% increased risk for birth defects in pregnancies that are exposed to second-hand smoke.

The above mentioned studies were unable to offer guidance on the effects of second-hand smoke exposure before 20 weeks gestation. However, the article appeared in the April 2011 issue of Pediatrics and many doctors are stressing the importance of avoiding secondhand smoke during pregnancy.

Pediatrician Jonathan P. Winickoff, MD, of Harvard Medical School, studies the negative effects of secondhand cigarette smoke exposure on babies and children. He concludes that smoking during pregnancy is one of the most preventable causes of low birth weight and neonatal intensive care (NICU) admissions.

Dr. Winickoff has also stated, "Roughly one in five NICU babies are there because of smoke exposure. The study illustrates that secondhand smoke exposure is a cause for concern, just like primary smoke exposure."

One study estimates that 126 million non-smokers in America are exposed to secondhand cigarette smoke on a regular basis. Where is the majority of the exposure coming from? For non-smoking women, it is coming from exposure at home.

More states are passing bans on public smoking, thus smokers who are unwilling to kick the habit, bring it into their homes. Everyone that is exposed to the second-hand cigarette smoke is at risk for the following health problems:

For children and babies, some risks of breathing in secondhand smoke include:

With all the risks of second-hand smoke, what can you do to protect yourself and your little one?

Speak up!
Don't hesitate to ask a friend, family member or guest to step outside and smoke instead of inside the house. Mention the risks during pregnancy and for others as well. The majority of people will be kind enough to go in a different area. Even the grumpiest of smokers will understand if you bring up your pregnancy or young children. Don't let people smoke inside your car as well. Such a small space is definitely more dangerous for inhaling second-hand smoke.

Ask the boss.
If you see your co-workers smoking, ask your boss about the rules about smoking in the workplace. Most states have laws against smoking at the workplace, and this can work in your favor so you don't have to be constantly asking people not to smoke while you are at work.

Patronize smoke-free establishments.
Endeavor to eat at smoke-free restaurants and stay in non-smoking hotel rooms. Watch for the no smoking sign and thank the managers for caring about healthy, clean air!

What if my spouse or close relative smokes?

This can be a difficult situation. Take time to sit down and have a heart-to-heart chat with the smoker in your family. Explain all the increased risks for stillbirth, low birth weight and birth defects that comes from second-hand smoke during pregnancy. Let him know that you are there to support him to stop this unhealthy habit that not only affects his health, but the health of others around him. Offer to take a trip to the drug store to see what patches, gums and other items are available to help your relative overcome his addiction. You could offer to accompany him to a trip to his family doctor to discuss the best tools to break the habit. Take time to mention all the benefits of not smoking like a healthier body, better-tasting food and cleaner air. Be careful not to criticize, but rather seek to help and encourage.

Take care as a new mom-to-be and avoid as much second-hand smoke as possible. Healthy eating, routine exercise, plenty of rest, prenatal vitamins and clean air will give your baby the healthiest and happiest start!

Sources: WebMD, Mayo Clinic Foundation

Alison Wood is a stay-at-home mom of six and freelance writer and blogger. She enjoys raising her six children and desires to share her experiences to help other mothers.

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