FAMILY MEDICAL CARE: SMOKING IN PREGNANCY
Here we come to a very important topic. Over the past few years, the facts relating to deleterious effects of smoking on both the mother and the unborn baby have gradually accumulated. Now it is very well documented that smoking is considerably harmful. This affects the mother. But the adverse effect is even greater on the baby.
Cigarette smoke contains three essential ingredients.
(1) Carbon Monoxide. When this unites with the blood, it forms a potent chemical called carboxyhaemoglobin. It links with the haemoglobin, the red material of the blood that normally transports oxygen to all parts of the system. In this way, the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood is drastically reduced. This is one potent way in which cigarette smoke damages the body in general.
But when this oxygen-reduced blood reaches the placenta, and the blood circulation of the growing infant, reduced amounts of oxygen are available for use at the vital centers. Extremely damaging effects can occur, and the results are serious to the infant. Many detailed studies have now been carried out in major maternity hospitals in all parts of the world which testify to the same net effect.
(2) Nicotine. This is a powerful nerve stimulant. But while it is stimulating the nerves, consider what it is doing to the blood vessels. It can act directly on the blood-vessel walls, causing them to contract, and this may initiate a rise in blood pressure. Such a situation in the pregnant state is definitely undesirable. Besides, a net detrimental effect on the heart and blood-vessel system can accrue from a continual supply of nicotine being pumped into the system. It is adverse for the baby to receive this drug also, and this is inevitable with continual maternal smoking. Smoking is never a virtue; during pregnancy it is doubly harmful. No expectant mother who has any consideration for her unborn child will indulge in the habit.
(3) Carcinogenic Agents. These are a complex number of powerful chemicals which are known causes of cancer. During the baby's nine-month stay inside the maternal womb, the chances of cancer formation are not high. But the continual irritation of the mother's bronchial system with these irritants does little to maintain the general high level of health which is essential during pregnancy.
So the evidence is definitely very positive, very real. It is no longer a fanciful whim of doctors. Indeed, about 75 per cent of doctors who once smoked have given up the habit. This is due to general consideration of their own better health. Even more important is it that mothers carrying a developing foetus desist from the habit. Please don't say, "I can't give it up." If you care about your baby, you must give it up. Please don't be controlled by a weed wrapped in paper!