We’ve all heard thousands of reasons for not smoking or drinking too much caffeine, but like all health advice, we generally ignore it. It is important for future mothers however to be aware of the risks and effects of these substances on the body and how they affect reproduction.
Studies have shown that smoking can affect fertility in women (and men) making it more difficult to get pregnant. If you are lucky enough to get pregnant (assuming you want to) then smoking reduces the amount of oxygen delivered to the fetus. It also retards the growth and leads to a newborn with lower birth weight and lower resistance to illness. Smoking has even been associated with spontaneous abortion and premature births.
The long term effects on children of smoking mothers is still being studied but some researchers have found that at the age of 6 these children show more impulsive behaviour, poorer attention and poorer memory.
Very few doctors tell us to keep away from caffeine during pregnancy. This is probably because pregnant women become moody and stressed when offered a new routine (and stress is equally bad during pregnancy). Studies have nevertheless shown that women who drink 1 to 3 cups of coffee a day while pregnant have double the risk of miscarriage than women who drink no coffee (yes there are people who don’t drink coffee!). It also makes children more irritable; they tend to move more in the womb and are born more irritated. Life can be difficult enough so we should try give our children the best start. Remember that as long as you’re pregnant, you are the baby’s world and what you do to yourself you do to the baby …except the baby doesn’t get the choice.