Last updated on Jun 21st, 2021 at 01:15 pm

Did you know that the chemicals emitted from second-hand smoke are harmful to you and your baby?

With May being Anti-Tobacco Awareness Month, the subject of second-hand smoke has come under scrutiny once again. While many women quit smoking when they fall pregnant, no one considers the negative effects that second-hand smoke, from friends and family, can have on both you and your baby. Research shows indirect contact with cigarette smoke can have a detrimental impact on your newborn baby’s health. So, it’s not enough to simply quit smoking. The key is to steer clear of second-hand smoke, too.

ALSO SEE: Smoking during pregnancy – do cigarettes harm your baby?

The health risks of second-hand smoke for babies

“Indirect contact with cigarettes can have harmful effects on the health of pregnant women and their babies,” says Dr Howard Manyonga, an obstetrician and head of The Birthing Team, an affordable maternity care programme available in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban.

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Dr Manyonga highlights the dangers that exposure to cigarettes can have on babies:

  • Low birth weight – Smoking while pregnant and exposure to second-hand smoke can affect the weight of your child at birth. A lower birth weight means babies are weaker and at a higher risk for serious health problems.
  • Preterm birth – Babies who are exposed to second-hand smoke while in the womb are at risk of a premature birth. If born preterm, the baby’s lungs are not fully developed, and this can result in breathing difficulties.
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)- Infants who are exposed to second-hand smoke after birth are more likely to die of SIDS. This is a disorder where a newborn dies unexpectedly while sleeping.
  • More sick days – Children whose parents smoke around them are more likely to get bronchitis and pneumonia. If a child has asthma, their symptoms can also be more severe in a smoking household.

Steer clear of second-hand smoke

If you’re pregnant, always encourage people not to smoke around you during your pregnancy and after birth. “Make sure your partner, family and friends smoke outdoors as far away from you as possible and declare your house and car a smoke-free zone,” says Dr Manyonga.

ALSO SEE: 10 things to avoid during pregnancy

An American Pregnancy Association report highlighted the following:

  • There are around 4 000 chemicals present in second-hand smoke, many of which have been linked to cancer. If you, or your unborn baby, is exposed, you could be at risk.
  • You could suffer from a miscarriage if exposed to a lot of second-hand smoke.
  • Second-hand smoke is extremely harmful to an unborn baby, because their lungs are still developing and won’t be able to adequately get rid of all the toxins and chemicals from the smoke.

Whether you or your partner smokes, the best thing you can do for your health and your little one’s overall health and wellbeing is to stop as soon as possible.

And, once you have your baby it’s important to keep your car and house a smoke-free zone. If you’re planning on getting a nanny or au pair, ensure she doesn’t smoke either. The more you and your child can avoid second-hand smoke, the better.

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NOTE: Looking for the best support throughout your pregnancy?

The Birthing Team, supported by healthcare management company PPO Serve, makes complete private maternity care affordable for uninsured women by charging an all-inclusive fee that covers all necessary scans, tests, medications, services and assessments from 11 weeks of pregnancy to six weeks after delivery.

With a focus on antenatal care and patient education, the teams reduce the risks of preterm delivery and emergency C-sections. They are currently operational at Netcare Park Lane in Johannesburg, the Femina Hospital in Pretoria and JMH City Hospital in Durban.