In recognition of January as National Birth Defects Prevention Month, the American Lung Association in Pennsylvania and other health organizations are urging pregnant women in Pennsylvania to stop smoking and using other tobacco products. Pregnant women who smoke or who are exposed to secondhand smoke can harm their unborn babies, as well as themselves.
Mothers who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to deliver their babies early or with low birth weight, even if they are full term. Smoking during pregnancy can also increase the risk of babies being born with cleft lips and/or palates, club feet or heart defects. It can also cause ectopic pregnancy or lead to miscarriage. Babies whose mothers smoke during pregnancy or who are exposed to secondhand smoke after birth are also more likely to die of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Exposure to secondhand smoke can also cause respiratory infections and ear infections in children and coronary heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer in adult nonsmokers. Today, about half of all the children between ages 3 and 18 years in this country are exposed to cigarette smoke regularly, either at home or in places such as restaurants that still allow smoking. Secondhand smoke can increase the risk of asthma attacks in infants and trigger more severe asthma in children of all ages. There is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure.
Quitting smoking and use of all tobacco products during pregnancy also includes stopping the use of e-cigarettes. This is because most e-cigarettes contain nicotine and other substances like heavy metals and cancer-causing chemicals which may be harmful to pregnant women and their developing baby’s brain and lungs.
Quitting all forms of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, is best for you and your baby. For help quitting, to increase the chances of a healthy baby and to receive up to 10 free personalized coaching sessions, with rewards for each completed session, call the PA Free Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). The public can also contact Caitlin Cluck for local services at 717-971-1121.