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The impact of smoking during pregnancy

Posted in: General Health 06 Jul, 2012

Very few smokers can claim nowadays to not know the health risks associated with their habit. However, despite these dangers, most people find it very difficult to quit. One of the main incentives for women to stop smoking is pregnancy, as the hormones can often make them stop craving cigarettes and the desire to protect the foetus becomes stronger than the addiction.

But is quitting once you are already pregnant enough to keep your child safe from the risks associated with smoking? According to new research carried out by a French university hospital, there are a number of risks associated with fertilised embryos of smoking mothers even before they are implanted.

The growth rate is the most concerning of issues recorded, as embryos from women who smoked were likely to develop more slowly. This is particularly worrying as it is not an effect of women smoking whilst pregnant but simply having smoked prior to pregnancy. In addition, women who are smokers find it a lot harder to become pregnant initially. So much so that some hospitals refuse IVF treatment to women who smoke.

Despite all these potential risks, why is it so hard to quit smoking? A 2007 study showed that the most common age groups for smoking amongst women were those between 20-34. With the average age of pregnancy in the UK at 29.5, this shows that women do not necessarily associate having children with quitting the habit.

Nicotine is known to be one of the most addictive of all drugs. Alcohol should be consumed in moderation, so an addiction to it becomes apparent and worrying to people around you. However, being addicted to the nicotine in cigarettes is not considered out of the norm and smoking on a daily basis is, in fact, the way tobacco products are intended to be used.

Smoking has been proven to be detrimental to your health and appearance, as well as expensive and unpleasant for those around you. If you add to this the desire to have children, it can be difficult to understand why people still find it so hard to give up.

Some studies show that the physical benefits which smokers experience, such as stress alleviation, heightened sense of concentration or general emotional wellbeing, are often triggered by the ritual of smoking rather than the action of the nicotine in the brain, which becomes less effective as the body builds up an immunity to the chemical.

This is why a psychological desire to stop smoking seems to be the most important element for anyone trying to quit. The potential to harm one’s child, or a child conceived in the future, seems like one of the most convincing reasons to quit smoking. Perhaps what is needed instead of more talk about the same issues which have been publicised to within an inch of their existence for the last half a century is a more clear indication of how smoking affects fertility and the health of your offspring.

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