How do the chemicals in cigarette smoke affect babies?
Nicotine and carbon monoxide are the main chemicals that cause problems during pregnancy. Carbon monoxide is attracted to elements in the baby’s blood even more so than the blood of the mother, this significantly reduces the ability of the foetus to carry oxygen. The oxygen carried by the baby’s blood is bound more tightly to the red blood cells, which means that less oxygen is released into the baby’s tissues. A number of chemicals in tobacco smoke that cross the placenta are known carcinogens. Nicotine also crosses the placenta raising foetal blood pressure and affects the baby’s ability to practice breathing movements. Nicotine is also found in the breast milk of women who smoke and breastfeed. Women who smoke during pregnancy are: • Twice as likely than nonsmokers to have a baby which is of low birth weight – low birth weight is an important risk factor for health problems in newborn babies, including still birth and complications in infancy. They are lighter because they do not de