Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Smoking and your baby

Mama, it's smoky in here
Baby's first full nappy can reveal mum's smoking habits

by Eveline Gan

THICK, greenish black stools
is not the only thing parents can expect to find in their newborn's nappy.

Had the mother continued to smoke heavily during her pregnancy, it would have been possible to find higher levels of tobacco smoke metabolites in her infant's meconium, American researchers have found. Meconium is a tar-like stool that is passed by a newborn during the first few days of birth.

The recently released findings were published in BioMed Central's journal, Environmental Health.

The team from the University Of North Carolina measured tobacco smoke metabolites in meconium samples from 337 babies, and found that it revealed how much cigarette smoke their mothers were exposed to during their pregnancies.

Concentrations of smoke metabolites were higher among infants born to active smokers, compared with women with second-hand or no exposure.

According to the researchers, "prenatal active and second-hand tobacco smoke exposure is a prevalent environmental exposure that is associated with adverse infant and childhood health outcomes."

The findings have further confirmed the adverse complications of smoking during pregnancy. Dr Chee Jing Jye, medical director of The Obstetrics And Gynaecology Centre, said smoking has been strongly associated with a host of pregnancy problems such as miscarriages, pre-term delivery, low birth weight, still births and birth defects including clefts and undescended testes in male babies.

"Smoking during late pregnancy has also been associated with placenta abruptio, whereby the placenta detaches from the wall of the womb prematurely. This results in oxygen deprivation in the baby and severe bleeding for both mother and child," she added.

The negative effects can also be felt later in childhood. "Exposure to maternal smoking during pregnancy also puts children at a higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome, asthma, middle-ear infections, behavioural and attention disorders," warned Dr Chee.

Suffocating your baby with more than 4,000 toxins

Explaining why cigarette smoking is toxic, Dr Chee said: "Smoking produces more than 4,000 chemicals and substances which are absorbed into the bloodstream, of which many are carcinogenic (cancer-causing)."

A significant by-product of smoking is carbon monoxide - a gas which displaces oxygen from the bloodstream and deprives the foetus of oxygen. Plus, it also constricts the blood vessels leading to the uterus, she added.

About 5 per cent of the pregnant patients Dr Chee sees are smokers. Fortunately, the majority managed to quit smoking during their pregnancies. Among them is Amy (not her real name), who forced herself to stub out during her pregnancy three years ago.

A smoker for almost a decade, Amy used to puff up to six cigarettes each day.

"When I discovered that I was six weeks pregnant, I stopped smoking completely. It wasn't that difficult because I think it's a matter of choice," said the 36-year-old.

"I simply changed my daily habits, substituted my coffee with fresh milk and stopped hanging out with friends who smoked."

Even for heavy smokers, Dr Chee said it is never too late in pregnancy to quit.

"The moment the woman stops smoking, the oxygen levels in her blood stream would rise. Blood flow to the placenta and her unborn child will also increase," she said.

Plus, Dr Chee added, stubbing out at any time of your life will mean that you reduce your risk of smoking-related medical problems.

"This will ensure you will be around longer with your children," she said.

Question on smoking during pregnancy

What if I can't quit totally? Is sneaking one or two puffs a day during pregnancy dangerous for my unborn child?

Even passive smoking is bad for the foetus, what more "one or two cigarettes a day"? The ill effects will still be present even if a pregnant mum smokes less or opts for "light" cigarettes. Although "lighter" cigarettes have lower tar and nicotine content, the rest of the chemicals that result from the combustion of tobacco are still produced.

- Reply by Dr Chee Jing Jye of The Obstetrics And Gynaecology Centre

From TODAY, Health - Tuesday, 14-Sep-2010
Mama, it's smoky in here

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