Quitting smoking reduces dangers: Healthy Pregnancy

Emma Haughton reports on the hazards of cigarettes and the abuse of alcohol

One of the most wearisome and worrying aspects of pregnancy can be the constant stream of admonitions and advice you receive about how to protect your unborn child. The list of forbidden pleasures seems to grow daily: beer, Brie and beef are amongst many things that are out of bounds for those nine long months - or longer if you breastfeed.

The good news when it comes to alcohol is that a little is probably still alright. So when you get that invitation to a party, you don't have to sit on the sidelines clutching an orange juice.

There have been studies into the effects of drinking alcohol during pregnancy and it is known that alcohol does affect your ability to conceive, as well as the chances of miscarriage and the development of your baby. Getting drunk can be particularly damaging. However, one or two units once or twice a week is unlikely to cause you or your baby any harm. This advice for pregnant women is not new but was recently backed up by a review of scientific evidence by an expert committee which reported to the Government's sensible drinking review published last December.

One study published since then has come up with a surprising finding. Professor Jean Golding, professor of paediatrics at Bristol University who led the study of 15,000 pregnant women in Avon said: "We found a U- shaped curve where women who had never drunk alcohol during pregnancy were more likely to have a low birth weight than those who drank occasionally." However, as Golding and her team acknowledge, there is no explanation for this.

"Confusion amongst mothers about this comes as no surprise to the HEA which is often asked for advice," says Sarah Harris of the HEA's Alcohol project. "So we went out and asked pregnant women what information they would find most useful. The things they told us have been used to develop a new leaflet which will be available shortly from GP's and health centres."

Advice on smoking is much more cut and dried: don't. The wealth of research around smoking and pregnancy shows links with reduced fertility in women, up to a four-fold risk of ectopic pregnancy, a higher risk of miscarriage and stillbirth, and an average 200g lower birthweight in exposed babies. The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths warns that maternal smoking during pregnancy quadruples the risk of cot death, while the Avon study found that smoking mothers have increased problems during pregnancy, including vomiting, thrush and urinary tract infections.

"Our research also shows that smoking in pregnancy has a major impact on the development of babies, making them more likely suffer from wheeziness and to develop asthma," says Golding, who believes these effects may be permanent. "If the lungs start off being underdeveloped, it is unlikely they will catch up. You are creating a vulnerable child."

Quitting during pregnancy is a positive move that should be continued after the birth; studies show the risk of cot death, respiratory illness and asthma are heightened in babies exposed to passive smoking by parents. Smoking also makes breastfeeding more difficult and reduces the nutrient levels in the milk.

Most sinister, perhaps, is Golding's suspicion that smoking alters a woman's hormonal profile, prompting an earlier menopause and increased risk of conditions like the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis. She in concerned that these abnormal levels of sex hormones in the mother may also cause changes to the sexual development of her children. Female babies born to pregnant rats exposed to tobacco smoke, for instance, have atrophied ovaries, while data from the 1958 National Child Development Study suggests that boys born to smoking mothers were significantly more likely to have undescended testes.

Despite the fact that 90 per cent of women are aware that smoking during pregnancy puts their baby at risk, only a quarter successfully give up just before or when they get pregnant, although 40 per cent do cut down. However, the HEA emphasises that it's never too late to minimise the dangers. Those who do quit can increase the chance of healthy birthweight, cut the risk of having a premature baby by half, and reduce the risk of stillbirth by a third.

If you need free and helpful advice on quitting smoking, you can telephone the Quitline on 0800 00 22 00.

Suggested Topics
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
News
news
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Sustainability Manager

    Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

    Graduate Sustainability Professional

    Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

    Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

    £850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

    Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

    £100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

    Day In a Page

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn