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Effects of Smoking During Pregnancy


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Learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, and mental retardation are some of the health risks that babies born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy have a greater risk of facing. People who smoke are already at increased risk for lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. Women who are pregnant and smoke are putting themselves and their unborn child at risks for birth complications and defects. At least 10% of pregnant women in the United States smoke while with child.

The Numbers

At least 18% of women of the population in the U. S. and other industrialized countries smoke. Smaller, less industrialized countries report much smaller proportions of 8% of women in the population smoking. The U. S. Public Health Service released a report citing projected statistics in the event that all pregnant women refrained from smoking. The numbers would look something like this:

  • 11% reduction in stillbirths

  • 5% reduction in newborn deaths

    The Risks

    There are over 2,500 chemicals released in tobacco and cigarette smoke, many of the same chemicals found in everyday household cleaners, like ammonia. There has not been enough scientific research done to determine all of the chemicals found in tobacco that are harmful to a developing baby, however fetal exposure to both nicotine and carbon monoxide can lead to adverse pregnancy outcomes.

    Smoking during pregnancy nearly doubles a woman's chances of giving birth to a low birth weight baby by slowing fetal growth. It also increases the probability of a preterm delivery. Babies born preterm or at a low birth weight face serious medical issues throughout development and growth such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation, and learning disabilities.

    Pregnancy Complications

    Smoking during pregnancy can lead to severe and even deadly complications during the pregnancy. A woman's risk of developing placenta problems is nearly doubled if she smokes cigarettes. The problems include placenta previa, in which a low-lying placenta covers part of all of the opening to the uterus, and placental abruption, in which the placenta becomes detached partially or completely from the uterine wall before delivery. Both of these can result in heavy bleeding during delivery, endangering both mother and newborn.

    For more information on the effects of smoking during pregnancy, or about your rights if your child suffers a birth defect or injury due to negligence or malpractice by a care provider, contact the Texas birth injury lawyers of Williams Kherkher at

    Joseph Devine

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