A study in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics looked at pregnant nonsmoking women who were exposed to second hand cigarette smoke before and during pregnancy to assess potential risks and hazards to the unborn child. The findings concluded that there is an increased risk of stillbirth by 23 percent and of birth malformations by 13 percent.
Simply targeting pregnant women with cessation efforts isn’t enough. Dr. Jonathan Winickoff, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School stated,
“These results highlight the importance of smoking prevention and cessation focusing on the father in addition to the mother during the preconception period and during the pregnancy.”
The study was not able to determine the exact point in time when an unborn child becomes susceptible to the risks of second hand smoke. The study was also unable to determine what levels of second hand smoke are dangerous. The scientists believe that the higher the level of exposure, the greater the risk. Study author Jo Leonardi-Bee, PhD and Associate Professor in Medical Statistics at the University of Nottingham in England said,
We anticipate that the effect becomes significant when the woman is exposed to more than 10 cigarettes a day, which isn’t a lot when you consider that some women are exposed to partners and other people’s smoking habits on a daily basis. However, we need more evidence to be able to say with certainty what the true levels are.
For nonsmoking women, the risk of stillbirth and birth defects is comparable to those of smokers. Pregnant smokers have a 20 to 34 percent chance of a stillbirth and a 10 to 34 percent chance of having a child born with one or more birth defects.
Heavy metals, carcinogens, and countless other chemicals can effect an unborn child just by a pregnant woman being exposed to cigarette smoke. It is important that families consider all of the risks of smoking before planning for a family. If an unexpected pregnancy occurs, it is important that everyone be educated on the risks to the future generation.
“Protect yourself from passive smoke before and during pregnancy, not only to reduce risks of disease to yourself, but also to reduce the many harms that passive smoke can have on your future baby.”
Common birth defects from exposure to cigarette smoke include feet, heart, testes, and being born without a brain.