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Experts highlight the need for smoking cessation therapy for women to help them quit it

Smoking during pregnancy raises the risk of health problems for developing babies, including preterm birth and low birth weight. Nicotine is harmful for pregnant women and developing babies and can damage a developing baby’s brain and lungs. According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, mothers who smoked three months before pregnancy and quit in the first trimester still incurred a higher risk of sudden unexpected infant death (SUID) compared to non-smokers. Hence, experts urge pregnant women who smoke to get rid of it.

Dr. Anu Vinod Vij, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Motherhood Hospital, Kharghar said, “Active and passive smoking is harmful for the mother and baby. 10-12% pregnant women from urban areas and 13-15% in rural areas tend to smoke. When a pregnant woman visits the hospital, we take history about their smoking habits too. It is no brainer that smoking affects the unborn baby. Firstly, the oxygen delivery to the baby is reduced due to direct effect of nicotine and carbon monoxide. Secondly, harmful chemicals are also transferred to the baby because of smoking (potential carcinogens which cause cancer). Owing to less oxygen delivery, the baby suffers foetal growth restrictions and doesn’t grow fully. There can be placental problems leading to dysfunction of placenta, early detachment or abruption of placenta, placenta previa where the placenta is present in the lower part of the uterus, spontaneous miscarriages and abortions, foetal deaths or still births, premature rupture of membrane, bursting of water bags before 37 weeks and preterm or early labour. Furthermore, smoking can affect one’s fertility too as ovulation becomes poorer and there’s an increase incident of implantation failure.”

“Thus, when women are planning for pregnancy, or have become pregnant, then they should quit smoking as soon as they are aware of pregnancy . If you are unable to quit because you are addicted then take the help of support groups. If a pregnant woman fails to quit smoking, then there will be a direct effect on reduction in milk output, and that will also result in poor post delivery weight gain of the baby. Moreover, women who smoke are unable to breastfeed the baby properly and there is a tendency towards early weaning. This leads to an increased incidence of gastro- intestinal infections because they are on top feed, there is stunting in growth and poor intellectual development as good nutrients aren’t passed on to the baby due to improper breastfeeding,” highlighted Dr Vij.

Dr. Sandhya Kulkarni, Pulmonologist at SRV Mamata, Dombivali, said, “Majority of women in rural areas, smoke bidis and use mishri. Hence, women should cut down on smoking by enrolling themselves for a smoking cessation therapy. Counseling, behaviour therapy, and medicines, can be helpful. Furthermore, hiding your matches, lighters, and ashtrays, and staying active to keep your mind off smoking is advisable. Exercise, reading a book, or trying a new a hobby can be a good idea. Also, avoid going to places where many people are smoking such as bars or clubs.”

“One may have symptoms of withdrawal as your body is used to nicotine, the addictive substance in cigarettes. One may crave cigarettes, feel irritable, cough often, experience headaches, or will be unable to concentrate. But, withdrawal symptoms are only temporary. Remember, these are signs that the body is healing and getting used to being without cigarettes. After one quits, the mother and baby’s heartbeat will return to normal, and baby will be less likely to develop breathing problems. Thus, women should bid adieu to smoking, and stay hale and hearty,” concluded Dr. Kulkarni.

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