Sunday, June 1, 2008

Please don’t smoke if you are pregnant

The fact that smoking during pregnancy is injurious to the baby is well-known. However, that does not deter a large percentage of would-be mothers to quit their love for nicotine. According to the Discovery channel more than 13 per cent of pregnant women in the US smoke and if all of them stopped smoking there would be a 10 per cent reduction of in infant deaths!
Quite a sad situation considering that health awareness in the US is amongst the highest in the world and almost everyone knows that cigarette contains more than 2500 chemicals harmful for the foetus. (To know more about the harmful effects of smoking during pregnancy that puts the would-be-mother and child’s lives at risk, check out this Discovery Health article)
Recent research conducted by scientists from the University of Calgary makes the situation worse for pregnant women who don’t stop smoking and establishes a direct correlation between smoking and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). According to the paper, published in American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, prenatal cigarette smoke exposure can contribute to the destabilising effects of hypoxia (shortage of oxygen in the body) and thermal stress on neonatal breathing. In other words, the newborn will find it extremely difficult to breathe due to lack of oxygen and increase in body temperature, thereby increasing the chances of sudden infant death.
In an effort to investigate the compounding effects of cigarette smoking on babies and other known risk factors for SIDS, namely thermal and oxygen stress, researchers exposed pregnant rat pups to either room air (control) or mainstream cigarette smoke equivalent to that a pack-a-day smoker would experience. After studying these rat pups the scientists found that just 13 per cent of the control animals (those kept in room air) exhibited gasping, whereas nearly three times that—36 per cent—of the cigarette smoke exposed animals did. The effects were much more pronounced in pups that had been exposed to cigarette smoked prenatally. The scientists feel that the same risks hold true for humans as well.Dr. Shabih Hasan, staff neonatologist and associate professor in the department of pediatrics at the University of Calgary was the principal investigator of the study.

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