17.3% of women in Western Australia smoke during pregnancy.
Smoking during pregnancy makes it harder for the baby to
get the oxygen and nourishment he or she needs and places
unnecessary stress on the baby’s heart. Every puff an
expectant mother takes on a cigarette increases the level
of carbon monoxide in her bloodstream, which replaces oxygen
in her blood, so the amount of oxygen available for the baby
through the umbilical cord is reduced. Nicotine also causes
a reduction in the baby’s “practice” breathing
movements in the womb.
When an expectant mother smokes, her baby is being exposed
to the same high level of poisons as she is. Once the baby
is born, he or she can also suffer when other people smoke
around them. This is known as passive smoking.
If a pregnant woman smokes or is exposed to smoke during
pregnancy, her baby has an increased risk of:
People with asthma have sensitive airways in their lungs.
When exposed to certain triggers, their airways narrow, making
it hard for them to breathe.
There are two main factors that cause the airways to become
The inside lining of the airways becomes inflamed and
extra mucus may be produced.
The muscle around the airways tightens (bronchoconstriction).
When the airways narrow, symptoms of cough, wheeze, shortness
of breath or chest tightness may occur. People with asthma
may have any one of these symptoms or a combination of symptoms.
The causes of asthma are not fully understood, but there
is often a family history of asthma, eczema or hay fever.
Asthma can begin at any age and can change over time.
Children of mothers who smoke during pregnancy and children
exposed to passive smoking early in childhood have an increased
risk of developing asthma.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
SIDS means the sudden, unexpected death of a baby. The cause
of the death is not known. SIDS is the most common cause of
death in babies between one month and one year of age. Most
babies who die of SIDS are under six months.
It is still not clear what causes SIDS. However parents who
smoke during pregnancy and after the baby is born increase
the risk of SIDS for their baby. In fact, if the mother smokes,
the risk of SIDS doubles, and if the father smokes too, the
risk doubles again.
There is an increased risk of SIDS if parents are smokers,
even if they smoke outside away from the baby. If mothers
who are smokers bed share with their babies the risk of SIDS
is increased. The reasons for this are not clear. However,
we do know that being a non-smoker or smoking less will reduce
the risk for your baby.
For more information about SIDS please contact SIDS and Kids
on 1300 308 307 or visit www.sidsandkids.org
Unhealthy birth weight
An unhealthy birth weight can make the baby more vulnerable
to infections and other health problems.
Having a low birthweight baby does not make things easier for you or your baby at birth.
A smaller baby is more likely to become stressed during birth. Labour with a small, under-weight baby is not easier or shorter than labour with an average sized baby.
The damage from smoking that causes the baby to be small also puts the baby at risk of other health problems and labour complications.