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Smoking When Pregnant is Dangerous To The Unborn Child

If you're a smoker, you've probably been planning for some time to quit. You know you need to stop, you've just been waiting for the right time--and for the willpower to stop.  Now that you're pregnant, this not only is a great time to stop--it is a critical time.  Not only will you find more energy to get you through the pregnancy, but you will also greatly diminish the risks of health problems for yourself and for your unborn child. 

True, stopping will be difficult. Some people say it's the hardest thing they've ever done.  And for the pregnant woman, who has enough stress already, it might be even more of a challenge. However, you'll be glad to know that there are some tips that will make this easier for you, and there are numerous resources that will assist you as well.

Before we look at some aids that will assist you with stopping, let's talk about the "whys." 

  • "Why" number 1:  Your baby smokes the same cigarette you do.  As you inhale the poisons that tobacco contains (such as carbon monoxide and nicotine) these same poisons infiltrate into your placenta.  This then sends those poisons, along with the oxygen and nutrients that the placenta is supposed to send, directly to the baby.
  • Pregnancy smoking is sometimes a cause of pre-term labor, low-birth weight, and even death of the baby.  Here's a sobering number for you: Studies show that somewhere between 20 to 30% of low-weight babies got that way because of the mother's smoking. What's more, about 10% of all early infant deaths is attributed to smoking by the mother.
  • Even second-hand smoke might be a problem.  The American Lung Association reports that new studies suggest a woman has a higher chance of having a low-weight baby if she's constantly around others who smoke.
  • Other studies have shown that a mother who smokes while pregnant might cause her child, when born, to have lung problems, more colds, and even learning disabilities.

    And it goes without saying that if the mom continues smoking after the birth of the baby, the child will get even more sicknesses such as colds or ear infections.  The child might even develop bronchitis or pneumonia, directly attributable to the smoking of the mother.  So now that you know all of this, let's talk about developing a strategy for quitting.

    NUMBER ONE: You must motivate yourself to want to quit.  A good way to do this is by writing out a list of all the reasons you should quit and all the advantages you will attain. Some of these advantages include:

  • Quitting will decrease the chances of your child being born too early or weighing too little.
  • Quitting will decrease the chance of your baby having health problems of any sort when he's born.
  • Quitting will actually raise the number of nutrients and the amount of oxygen that will get to your baby while still  in the womb.
  • Quitting will reduce the risk that you will contract health issues like cancer, lung disease or heart disease.
  • Quitting will save you a lot of money.

NUMBER TWO: You must develop new daily habits.  This means that, at those ritual times when you once had a cigarette, develop a new ritual such as reading a pregnancy book or going for nice, brisk walk or reading the newspaper or eating a healthy snack.

NUMBER THREE: Develop a support network.  Having a family member or a friend who you can call when you're tempted to pull out a cigarette can really boost your willpower.  Also, try to hang around people who don't smoke rather than those who do.

NUMBER FOUR:  Ask your doctor if he has resources / aids to help you.  He might be able to help you with a program designed to help you quit. Or he might be able to point you to help such as gum, nicotine patches, inhalers, or even prescription medications.  There are also over-the-counter drugs that might help.  However, it's crucial that you talk with your doctor before trying any of these, so he can advise as to what will and will not affect your baby's development.

NUMBER FIVE: Set a date and stick to it!  This will be the day that you throw away everything that helps you smoke: cigarettes, matches, ashtrays, etc.  Making it a big event will help cement your commitment.

NUMBER SIX:  Post these handy tips on your refrigerator or somewhere else where you'll see them often:

  • "I will keep my mouth and hands busy (chewing gum, working on a craft, etc.)."
  • "When I feel tempted, I will look at my list of reasons for quitting smoking."
  • "I will not surround myself with people who smoke or visit places with lots of smokers."

    The road to quitting will be a difficult one--but it will never be one that either you or your child will regret.
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