While some people may prefer to ignore the obvious health ramifications that come with being a cigarette smoker, scientific advancements of the last few decades as well as an immense amount of anti-tobacco avocation have made smoking’s deadly consequences common knowledge. If, by 2016, you are not yet aware of the laundry list of dangers that cigarette smoking poses, you are either living under a rock or doing everything in your power to tune out the truth about tobacco. My point is, by now, everyone surely knows the risks, right? As I unfortunately discovered last week, maybe not. As I traveled back to the Philadelphia area for Thanksgiving I was absolutely appalled to see not one, but two soon-to-be mothers smoking cigarettes while carrying a child. Cigarettes are glorified throughout the entertainment industry, but even in movies and television shows you’ll rarely ever see a pregnant woman smoking. So, how is it that these women are in the process of bringing a child into the world and are somehow okay with endangering that life before it even begins? Unable to think of any other explanation, I figured these women simply must not know how much they could be hurting their child. Despite my overwhelming inclination to believe that I’m obviously right and these women are very wrong, I couldn’t help but recognize that I honestly didn’t know much about the hazards of smoking while pregnant. So, I asked myself, does smoking while pregnant actually impact the baby significantly? The null hypothesis in my study would be that smoking does not have a significant impact on the baby, with the alternative hypothesis being that smoking does have a clear and substantial impact on the newborn.
In 2003, a study was published that documented the effects that a woman smoking during pregnancy could have on the neurobehavioral of her newborn. The study compared 27 nicotine exposed and 29 unexposed full term newborns from the same social background, with no known medical problems. The study revealed that the babies who had been exposed to nicotine were excitable and hypertonic (rigid muscle, decreased flexibility/mobility) significantly more often the babies that had not been exposed to nicotine. In addition, the exposed babies were at a higher risk of developing stressed and problematic gastrointestinal and central nervous system, and were born with a legitimate nicotine addiction.
According to Dr. Robert Welch, the chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Southfield, Michigan’s Providence Hospital, smoking cigarettes is most likely the largest cause of unwanted or problematic outcomes for newborn babies. Welch says that in babies born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy, he commonly sees side effects such as premature birth and low birth weight (for which no medication can help), with the most serious side effects being stillbirth and miscarriage. Pregnancy smoking has also been known to lead to learn and behavioral disorders, asthma, and sudden infant death syndrome (death of the newborn that occurs while the baby is asleep.)
As I believed would happen, my research and analysis of the studies/results of pregnancy smoking has enabled me to confirm my alternative hypothesis. It is without question that exposing an unborn baby to nicotine can have a devastating impact on the health and subsequent life of a newborn and can also result in a wide array of birth defects. Simply stated, the only way for an expecting mother to ensure her baby’s immunity from nicotine related issues postpartum is to completely stay away from cigarettes and other tobacco products.