Smoking pregnant women risk sudden infant death syndrome

Smoking pregnant women risk sudden infant death syndrome

(This story was updated today at 1715 hours, New Zealand Time)

Tiffany Simmons

Georgia, USA, December 23, 2019

It has been well documented that smoking cigarettes during pregnancy is associated with several severe obstetrical outcomes like spontaneous abortion, placenta previa, placenta abruption, preterm birth, stillbirth, low birth weight, fetal growth restriction, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Smoking cessation is highly effective when implemented before getting pregnant or before the initiation of prenatal care. Nicotine dependence is a significant element of women’s smoking behavior, hence the highly addictive nature of nicotine makes the cessation of smoking hard.

Adverse physiological symptoms

Nicotine withdrawal can result in adverse physiological symptoms like irritability, cravings, anxiety, restlessness, and increased appetite. In pregnant women who smoke, nicotine crosses the placenta, concentrates in the amniotic fluid and fetal blood, and can also be detectable during lactation in breast milk.

Some of the long-term effects of smoking on the fetus include the following:

Neurobehavioral Outcomes

Following prenatal nicotine exposure, numerous long-term neurological effects have been documented to explain the adverse neurobehavioral outcomes in the fetus of women who smoke when pregnant.

Prenatal exposure to tobacco has been associated with many adverse postnatal neurobehavioral outcomes like learning disabilities, attention-deficit hyperactivity, increased risk of nicotine addiction, and behavioral problems.

Nicotine is the primary chemical involved in the mediation of long-term neurological effects of cigarette smoke exposure.

Metabolic Outcomes

Smoking during pregnancy results in intrauterine growth restriction, and hence low birth weight becomes a significant risk factor for the development of hypertension, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

Of the 4000 chemicals in cigarette smoke, fetal exposure to nicotine could result in postnatal metabolic alterations associated with type 2 diabetes, obesity, and hypertension.

Obesity (Postnatal body weight)

Prenatal nicotine exposure can result in increased postnatal body weight and high levels of body fat in the developing fetus at the gestational period and during adulthood as well.

Prenatal exposure could result in increased body weight through alterations in the baby’s central endocrine control of their body weight homeostasis.

The signals for energy balance and body weight regulation are integrated into the hypothalamus, making it the most important center in the brain for the regulation of body weight homeostasis and appetite. Maternal smoking can cause inappropriate changes in the hypothalamic regulation of energy homeostasis, which then results in increased appetite.

Type 2 Diabetes

Smoking during pregnancy or lactation results in metabolic and endocrine changes in the baby even in their adulthood, which is consistent with the disturbed glucose metabolism leading to type 2 diabetes.

This is the progressive reduction in the pancreas’ ability to produce sufficient insulin to maintain glucose homeostasis and compensate for resistance to insulin action.

Fetal exposure to nicotine adversely affects the fetus’s pancreatic developmental, which then has profound effects on fetal pancreatic development, which results in abnormal glucose homeostasis when they’re adults.

Prenatal exposure to nicotine also leads to impaired insulin sensitivity in the fetus’ peripheral tissues, which is also a hallmark for type 2 diabetes. Hence, maternal nicotine exposure could lead to impaired glucose homeostasis in the fetus as a result of both reduced peripheral insulin sensitivity and defective insulin secretion.

Cardiovascular Outcomes

Fetal nicotine exposure causes fetal heart attack and increased blood pressure in adulthood. It has been reported that the nicotine-exposed fetus could experience elevated postnatal blood pressure, which could partly be attributed to the altered perivascular adipose tissue function.

Smoking during pregnancy could also lead to stress-induced cardiac defects in the offspring. Nicotine exposure could play a significant role in the increased consequence of hypertension. Furthermore, exposing the fetus to nicotine-induces cardiac dysfunction increases the risk of SIDS.

Respiratory Outcomes

Maternal smoking has been associated with adverse pulmonary function outcomes in the fetus. Smoking during pregnancy doubles the risk of asthma and wheezing in the offspring. It has also been associated with diminished lung function in the offspring.

The risk of your child developing asthma if you smoked while pregnant remains elevated as the child reaches school age, adolescence, and adulthood.

Exposing your unborn baby to nicotine also profoundly impacts their lung development and their postnatal lung function.

Childhood Cancers

Exposing your fetus to tobacco smoke has also been associated with the increased risk of childhood cancers, including leukemia/lymphoma and childhood brain tumors.

Nicotine and its metabolites are believed to initiate and promote tumor growth possibly, and because of the fetus’ reduced detoxification abilities, they could be vulnerable to these effects.

Hence, fetal exposure to nicotine through cigarette smoking or Nicotine Replacement Therapy, could increase the long-term risk of your offspring developing cancer. However, more research is required to verify this hypothesis.

Visit to learn more about smoking and pregnancy.

Tiffany Simmons is a wife, mother and an aspiring Children’s book writer. A BS degree holder in Mass Communications and Marketing from the University of West Georgia, she resigned her job in the healthcare profession to become a writer for

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