What happens when pregnant women smoke?

Smoking during pregnancy can increase a woman's risk of miscarriage. See more drug pictures.
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By now, most people agree that smoking is not a grand idea for anyone. It's pretty easy to come up with a list of all the health problems that can afflict people who smoke cigarettes:

  • sinus problems
  • difficulty breathing and eventually, emphysema
  • cancer
  • increased risk of heart disease
  • increased risk of stroke

Most of the damage caused by cigarette smoking doesn't appear for years or decades, making it difficult to convince smokers to give up their habit. However, when a pregnant woman smokes, the nicotine and other compounds found in tobacco pose both an immediate and an extended threat to the health of her developing child. These dangers include:

  • Increased risk of miscarriage
  • Increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Behavioral problems (i.e., hyperactivity)
  • Reduced verbal and mathematical ability

Ironically enough, smoking even reduces a woman's chance of even getting pregnant in the first place! How does smoking wreak so much havoc in only nine months? The difference lies in three things.  See the next page to learn more.