Pregnant women who smoke are up to 80 percent more likely to suffer a miscarriage than their non-smoking counterparts. There is a direct correlation between the amount of smoking during pregnancy and the frequency of spontaneous abortion and fetal death. Pregnant women are also twice as likely to develop potentially life-threatening placental complications. These include placenta previa, a condition in which the placenta is attached too low in the uterus and covers part or all of the cervix, and placental abruption, in which the placenta separates from the uterine wall before delivery. Both can result in a delivery that jeopardizes the life of mother and baby, though a cesarean delivery can prevent most deaths. Placental problems contribute to smokers increased risk of having a stillborn baby. Women who smoke early in pregnancy double their risk of having an ectopic pregnancy, in which the embryo becomes implanted in a fallopian tube or other abnormal site instead of the uterus. These pregnancies rarely result in the birth of a baby, and must be removed surgically or with drug treatment to protect a woman's life. Ectopic pregnancy remains an important cause of maternal deaths in parts of the world where these treatments are not readily available.
The impacts on the fetus are just as dangerous. Smoking during pregnancy has been shown to reduce the birth weight and size of a fetus. Low birth weight and intrauterine growth retardation are important risk factors for childhood morbidity and mortality. Numerous studies have also shown an increase in the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). This risk is five times higher for babies of smoking mothers versus babies of non smoking mothers.
Exposure to smoking (ETS) has been shown to be very detrimental to children as they develop. At a meeting of the World Health Organization, international studies were compared to determine what effects environmental tobacco smoke had on children. Below is the list of their findings.
- ETS increases risks of lower respiratory tract illnesses, including bronchitis and pneumonia, in the first years of life.
- ETS is a cause of chronic respiratory symptoms in school-aged children.
- ETS increases the severity and frequency of symptoms in children with asthma.
- ETS increases the risk of acute and chronic middle ear disease.
- ETS is associated with physiological changes in children that may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and childhood cancers.
Parental smoking is associated with learning difficulties, behavioral problems, and language impairment.
The last point on the list was expanded by the following quote.
"When compared to children of nonsmokers, children of smokers perform more poorly in school. They also have lower scores in cognitive functioning tests - in particular, language and auditory processing - and have more behavioral problems, including conduct disorders, hyperactivity, and decreased attention spans. Cognitive and behavioral deficits in children have lifelong consequences and result in increased costs for education and social services."
Smoking not only damages a child's physical health, it also damages the mental and social health. These effects will last a child's entire life.
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