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Pregnancy Complications

Smoking During Pregnancy

How Cigarettes Affect Pregnancy

It should not come as a surprise that if smoking is not healthy for you, then it's definitely not good for your unborn baby. Researchers from the University of Florida and Columbia University have conducted an extensive review of the research dealing with the effects cigarette smoking has on getting pregnant and having a successful pregnancy and healthy baby.

Despite a few studies about 10 years ago that indicated that smoking may actually help protect a woman from certain disorders of the uterus, the researchers found strong evidence that the harmful effects far outweigh any benefit. In fact, it might be these same "protective mechanisms" that can cause harm to your baby.

Smoking has been associated with a decrease in uterine fibroids, endometriosis, and uterine cancer, presumably because the chemicals in the smoke prevent the uterine cells from reproducing. That's good if the cells are abnormal, but if you're pregnant, it could spell disaster. Researchers believe this is one reason why smokers have a higher rate of miscarriage.

Tobacco affects almost all the tissues in your body including your ovaries, uterus, and in pregnant women the placenta, the organ that serves as the physical connection between the mother and the fetus.

If you're female and not pregnant, evidence indicates that smoking has long-lasting, harmful effects on how well your ovaries function. The more you smoke the greater the damage. Nicotine, cadmium, and hydrocarbons found in cigarettes interfere with your body's production and use of estrogen and the maturation cycle of your eggs.

In any smoker, cigarettes cause your blood vessels to constrict, decreasing circulation and raising your risks for many circulatory disorders such as hypertension, stroke, and myocardial infarction (heart attack). This same vessel constriction occurs in the arteries that nourish the placenta, which can result in premature birth, birth defects, and low birth-weight babies.

Shiverisk KT, Salafia C (1999) Cigarette smoking and pregnancy - I: Ovarian, uterine and placental effects [Review] Placenta. 20(4):265-272.

Shiverisk KT, Salafia C (1999) Cigarette smoking and pregnancy - II: Vascular effect Placenta. 20(4):273-279

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