Smoking while pregnant can cause many health issues for children after they are born.
Many of these health concerns are similar for children who experience secondhand smoke. Dr. Laura McCauley, pediatric pulmonologist with Marshfield Clinic Health System, said smoking while pregnant can also cause development issues for organs including the lungs and brain.
Premature birth and organ development
Smoking while pregnant can cause an increased risk of premature birth. This can lead to your child’s lungs not being fully developed at birth.
Your child could have trouble breathing after they are born if the lungs do not fully develop. This could cause your baby to be on a machine that provides oxygen until the lungs develop.
Infants born prematurely, who do require oxygen or a breathing machine (ventilator), tend to have lower lung function than their peers up until their teenage years and sometimes into adulthood.
Nicotine’s effect on the brain
Having a premature baby also could cause the brain to not fully develop before birth. Research also has shown that nicotine present in cigarettes and e-cigarettes could cause additional problems.
There is some evidence that smoking while pregnant has cognitive effects as a result of the direct effects of the nicotine,” McCauley said.
These cognitive effects include an increased risk for developing conditions like ADHD and many other cognitive issues.
Stop smoking for prevention
The only way to prevent your baby from having health issues because of smoking while pregnant is to quit smoking.
“About 50 percent of women continue to smoke when they are pregnant,” said McCauley.
To help quit smoking, talk to your primary care provider about tools you can use to stop. If you are looking for more information about the effects of smoking on your child’s health at delivery and beyond, talk to your OB/GYN.