There are many studies which point to a deleterious relationship between smoking and pregnancy. Health concerns abound for not only the baby, but the mother as well. Perhaps, you and your spouse have been wanting to start a family. You finally get the test results back and it’s positive, you are pregnant! However, your enthusiasm is immediately tempered when the physician advises that you give up smoking - today.

Many women are in the same boat, as up to 30% of all pregnant women smoke. Of those, only a quarter of them will stop at any time during their pregnancy. This statistic seems rather high given the mounting evidence that smoking is so bad for the mom and baby.

For example, women who smoke have lower birth-weight babies. Doctors are seemingly obsessed with the baby's ability to gain weight during the pregnancy. Ask any pregnant woman and she’ll tell you that every appointment is marked by measuring the growth of the baby. Vigorous growth usually equates to healthy baby. In fact, weight gain of the fetus in utero is a primary indicator of fetal health and development. Not surprisingly, female smokers who are pregnant, typically have smaller babies. They weigh on average, less than 5 and a half pounds. Their nonsmoking counterparts, on the other hand, give birth to larger birth weight babies. The low birth weight could also be attributed to the babies not making it to full-term as some are born more prematurely.

Premature babies are more likely to have physical and other developmental challenges than full-term babies. For example, they have a greater risk for cerebral palsy, death and learning disabilities. In addition, babies born to women who smoke, also are two or three times more likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS.

The health consequences are not just related to the baby in utero. The mother is also at increased risk if she smokes during her pregnancy. The literature points out that women who smoke have a greater risk of bleeding during the delivery process. Obviously, this is hazardous for the mom and her child. Yet despite these startling health risks, women continue to smoke into and throughout the whole of their pregnancy.

Smoking has also been linked to increased difficulty in getting pregnant in the first place. The detrimental effects of smoking are far reaching, even after the baby is born. Nicotine is easily transmitted through the mother’s breast milk when nursing. This may lead to further developmental concerns for the child.

So why do pregnant women continue to smoke? As with others who smoke the answer may be quite simple, very few are motivated to quit. Either the physician doesn’t explain the benefits well enough or the woman simply doesn’t feel like she can quit. To make matters worse, more women smoke today than ever before. This is evidenced by what came out in the year 2000, as we saw for the first time in our history, the death rate in women from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - almost an exclusive smoker’s disease - exceeded that of men.

Quitting smoking is hard enough, without complicating the process with a pregnancy. However, the pregnancy should serve as motivation to quit as many people will stop smoking if they know it will harm someone else whom they love. The key is getting the right information from people who know the facts. Smoking cessation is all about making decisions to help yourself. The challenge is in preparing yourself and setting the right expectations for the process. Understanding what may happen and setting clear goals can be the difference-maker for a successful quit that results in a healthy pregnancy.

Author's Bio: 

Tim Frymyer, RRT has been a licensed respiratory therapist for over 20 years. He has treated countless patients suffering from smoking related illnesses. In an effort to limit the devastating effects of smoking, he has now set up a smoking cessation website to assist and educate those seeking help to stop smoking.