You already know that smoking during pregnancy is bad for you and your baby. Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body and can cause serious health conditions, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, gum disease and eye diseases that can lead to blindness.
A new study published yesterday in the American Journal of Human Genetics suggests that smoking during pregnancy causes chemical changes in a baby’s DNA. These differences are similar to changes found in the DNA of adult smokers.
The study analyzed the umbilical cord blood of over 6,000 newborns. The researchers found that when women smoked every day during pregnancy, their baby’s DNA was chemically different in over 6,000 places when compared with the DNA of babies whose mothers did not smoke. Some of the places where the DNA was chemically different could be linked to specific genes that play a role in cleft lip and palate, asthma, and some adult smoking-related cancers, such as lung cancer. This new study is important because it adds to our understanding of how smoking during pregnancy affects fetal DNA and it suggests that these DNA changes may play a role in the development of certain birth defects or medical conditions.
It is well known that smoking during pregnancy has been linked to a number of pregnancy complications and medical problems for the baby. When you smoke during pregnancy, chemicals like nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar pass through the placenta and umbilical cord into your baby’s bloodstream.
These chemicals are harmful. They can lessen the amount of oxygen that your baby gets. This can slow your baby’s growth before birth and can damage your baby’s heart, lungs and brain.
If you smoke during pregnancy, you’re more likely to have:
- Ectopic pregnancy. This is when a fertilized egg implants itself outside of the uterus (womb) and begins to grow. An ectopic pregnancy cannot result in the birth of a baby. It can cause serious, dangerous problems for the pregnant woman.
- Bleeding from the vagina
- Problems with the placenta, like placental abruption and placenta previa.
And your baby is more likely to:
- Be born prematurely. This means your baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Premature babies are more likely to have health problems.
- Have birth defects, including cleft lip or cleft palate.
- Have low birthweight. This means your baby is born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces.
- Die before birth. If you smoke during pregnancy, you’re more likely to have a miscarriage or a stillbirth.
- Die of sudden infant death syndrome (also called SIDS). This is the unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year old.
If you smoke during pregnancy, quitting is the best thing you can do for you and your baby. The sooner you quit smoking during pregnancy, the healthier you and your baby can be. It’s best to quit smoking before getting pregnant. But quitting any time during pregnancy can have a positive effect on your baby’s life.
Have questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.