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Smoking and Pregnancy: What Are the Risks?
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In the United States between 2009 and 2010, 22.7 percent of teens age 15 to 17 smoked cigarettes during their pregnancies. Carbon monoxide and nicotine from tobacco smoke may interfere with fetal oxygen supply -- and because nicotine readily crosses the placenta, it can reach concentrations in the fetus that are much higher than maternal levels. Nicotine concentrates in fetal blood, amniotic fluid, and breast milk, exposing both fetuses and infants to toxic effects. These factors can have severe consequences for the fetuses and infants of mothers who smoke, including increased risk for stillbirth, infant mortality, sudden infant death syndrome, preterm birth, and respiratory problems. In addition, smoking more than a pack a day during pregnancy nearly doubles the risk that the affected child will become addicted to tobacco if that child starts smoking.
How Is Tobacco Addiction Treated?
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The good news is that treatments for tobacco addiction do work. Although some people who smoke can quit without help, many people need help. Behavioral treatment programs help people learn about and change their behaviors using self-help materials, counselor-staffed telephone "quitlines," and individual therapy. Over-the-counter medications, such as the nicotine patch, gum, inhalers, and lozenges, replace nicotine and relieve the symptoms of withdrawal. It is important to know that nicotine replacement medicines can be safely used as a medication when taken properly. They have lower overall nicotine levels than tobacco and they have little abuse potential since they do not produce the pleasurable effects of tobacco products. They also don't contain the carcinogens and gases found in tobacco smoke, making them a good treatment approach for quitting.
There are also prescription medications now available for smoking cessation, such as bupropion (Zyban) and varenicline tartrate (Chantix), that have been shown to help people quit. But research shows that the most effective way to quit smoking is to use both medications and behavioral treatment programs.
The bottom line: People who quit smoking can have immediate health benefits. Believe it or not, within 24 hours of quitting, a person's blood pressure decreases and they have less of a chance of having a heart attack. Over the long haul, quitting means less chance of stroke, lung and other cancers, and coronary heart disease, and more chance for a long and healthy life.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/1/2012
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Nicotine - Experience Question: Please describe your experience with tobacco use.
Nicotine Addictive - Treatment Question: What was the treatment for your tobacco addiction?
Nicotine - Common Street Names Question: Names and terms change. Share some of the names you've heard for cigarettes or chewing tobacco.
Nicotine - Teen Use Question: Since there have been cigarettes, teens have smoked. If you are under 20, do you smoke? If so, why?
Nicotine - Effects Question: Describe how it feels to smoke and why you do/did it.
Nicotine - Long-Term Effects Question: If you smoked cigarettes or chewed tobacco, what have been the long-term adverse effects?
Nicotine - Pregnancy Question: Did you or your mother smoke while pregnant? What have been the effects or consequences?
Nicotine - Quitting Question: Please share tips and suggestions for how you quit smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco.