Being pregnant comes with lifestyle changes to give your baby the best start in life. Smoking when pregnant is one change all pregnant women should think of making. When you have a cigarette the unborn baby also receives the chemicals in cigarettes your body is absorbing, as well as oxygen deprivation.
Some of the damaging effects of smoking on the foetus include changes in the brain and lungs, reduced oxygen supply, decreased foetal movement for at least an hour after smoking, an increased risk of cleft lip and cleft palate and abnormal growth and development.
Smoking doesn’t only harm your baby while inside the womb – it impacts on newborn babies too. Your child also has an increased risk of premature birth, a lower birth weight and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
If you’re breastfeeding all the harmful chemicals can be passed to your baby, and there can be a Vitamin C deficiency in your milk. Smoking also affects milk production.
As a result of smoking while pregnant your child can be more likely to have health implications later in life too. A higher risk of asthma, decreased lung function and an increased risk of being obese or overweight are all common side effects.
Drinking alcohol can also have many negative effects on an unborn baby. When alcohol is ingested it passes to your baby through your blood stream, meaning that when you drink so does your baby.
Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorders (FASD) is a condition that children with mothers who drink heavily can be born with. The condition is characterised by mental and physical disabilities and is the main cause of mental retardation in the western world.
Birth defects, vision and or hearing problems, premature birth, low birth weight, learning disabilities and behavioural problems, sleeping and sucking problems and speech and language delays are all associated with FASD.
Illicit drugs such as Marijuana, Cocaine, LSD, Heroin and Ecstasy all have the same effects on your baby that they do on you. When you get high so does your baby.
If you are addicted to any kind of drug when you find out you’re pregnant it is safer to seek the advice of a health care professional because going through withdrawals can put stress on the foetus.
If you continue to use drugs throughout pregnancy your baby will be born addicted to that substance. They may suffer from withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, sleeplessness, muscle spasms and feeding problems.
Services that can help
Nine months of pregnancy can be a tough time but when you bring a beautiful baby into the world you’ll know staying strong was worth it.
If you need help staying strong for your unborn baby, there are specific Aboriginal and Torres Strait Services available. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help to give your baby the best start in life.
For help contact your local Aboriginal Maternal Infant Health Service, you can find your local AMS at www.ahmrc.org.au – click on the ‘Members’ link.
For confidential support, information or advice about alcohol and drugs you can call the Alcohol Drug Information Service (ADIS) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Telephone: 9361 8000 (Sydney) or free call: 1800 422 599 (for NSW regional and rural callers).