We’ve had several posts regarding the cardiovascular health issues of smoking be it firsthand and secondhand. It is important to be aware that smoking can also hurt the unborn baby in a smoking woman’s womb.
Researchers found evidence that there is a link between congenital heart defects and smoking not only DURING but even BEFORE the first trimester of pregnancy.
The study looked at more 7,014 babies, 3,067 of whom had nonsyndromic congenital heart defects and 3,947 had none. They also looked at the smoking habits of the mothers and classified them as follows:
- Light smokers (14 cigarettes per day or less)
- Moderate smokers (15 to 24 cigarettes a day)
- Heavy smokers (25 cigarettes per day or more).
The results show that women who are heavy smokers have two times the risk of having babies with septal heart defects compared to non-smoking mommies. Septal heart defect is usually a condition of having a hole in the septum, the tissue that separates the left and right chambers of the heart. In the same way, moderate smokers have 50% higher likelihood and light smokers have 44% higher likelihood of giving birth to babies with this type of heart defect. Other types of heart defects also occur more frequently in babies born to smoking moms than to non-smoking moms. These study results were not dependent on other factors that may also be linked to birth defects such prenatal use of vitamins, alcohol intake, age of the mother, and ethnicity.
Congenital heart defects (CHDs) are the most prevalent and serious of all recognized structural birth defects, occurring in 8 to 10 of every 1000 live births in the United States. Affected infants who survive often require repeated surgeries and lengthy hospitalizations, and many will have a lifetime of disability that imposes a significant burden on families. In the United States, CHDs result in billions of dollars being spent each year on medical care.
It is not often easy for women to quit smoking during pregnancy even if they want to. In such cases, the use of smoking cessation medications is recommended. However, according a survey, very few women take this option, unless it is openly discussed with their obstetrician or covered by health insurance.
So if you are a smoker and are planning to get pregnant, please consider seriously about quitting. And if quitting doesn’t work, ask for professional help. Remember, it’s your baby’s heart that is at stake.