Passive smoking in pregnancy

Advice on the effect of passive smoking in pregnancy and ways to avoid inhaling other people's smoke
What is it?

Passive smoking is the term used to refer to breathing in smoke from someone else's' cigarette. It comprises the smoke produced from the tip of a burning cigarette (side stream smoke) as well as that which the smoker themselves exhales (mainstream smoke). While there are some that still contest that passive smoking is a health issue, the recently introduced smoking ban is testament to how much of a problem it actually is - especially during in pregnancy.

Why is it bad?

The smoke from a cigarette contains over 4,000 chemicals, at least 60 of which are known carcinogens. Although the health effects of passive smoking are not as pronounced or severe as if you were to smoke directly, long term exposure to cigarette smoke poses many of the same risks to your health and to that of your unborn child.

Prolonged exposure to passive smoking during pregnancy significantly increases the risk of miscarriage, preterm labour and low infant birth weight. In addition, the risk of SIDS (cot death) is increased almost 3 fold as are respiratory disorders (such as asthma and bronchitis), hyperactivity and attentional disorders, allergies and birth defects. These risks are on top of the other health risks associated with breathing in smoke.

How can I avoid it

While the smoking ban will help reduce the risks associated with passive smoking to some extent (as smoking is now banned in enclosed public and work spaces) you will still need to avoid breathing in cigarette smoke at home.

Ask your partner, friends and family to avoid smoking around you, and to go outside for a cigarette rather than smoking in the house. At the very least you should make sure that if you are with people who are smoking inside, you ensure the room is well ventilated with windows and doors opened wide. Additionally, you should make sure you never allow people to smoke in a room where you or your baby (when he or she arrives) sleep.

By avoiding situations where passive smoking is likely, you will be doing a great thing for your own and for your baby's health.

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