It’s never a good idea to smoke during pregnancy. Even people who have smoked all their lives agree that exposing children to cigarette smoke is an unhealthy choice. Unfortunately, there are some mothers who choose not to quit smoking during pregnancy, and their children will have to bear the consequences.
Smoking affects your baby in two ways. One way is through prenatal exposure to nicotine. This happens when the nicotine you inhale is transferred directly to your unborn child. This can lower the amount of oxygen available to you and your baby, it can also increase your baby's heart rate, increase the chances of miscarriage and stillbirth, increase the risk that your baby is born prematurely or with low birth weight, and it can also increase your baby's risk of developing respiratory problems. Secondhand smoke is the second way that smoking affects your child. Second-hand smoke has been linked to lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, allergies, asthma, and other health problems.
Though smoking has many irreversible effects, according to a study presented Saturday, May 4, at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Washington, DC., “Vitamin C is a simple, safe and inexpensive treatment that may decrease the impact of smoking during pregnancy on childhood respiratory health,"
Vitamin C won’t reverse all the negative effects that smoking can have on an infant, but it will help combat lung issues like wheezing and asthma.
The study included 159 women less than 22 weeks pregnant who were unable to quit smoking. The participants were randomly assigned to take one of two pills. One pill contained 500 milligrams of vitamin C, the other was a placebo. Each day the women would take one capsule with their prenatal vitamin. The study investigator and the women were both unaware of which capsule they were taking. A group of nonsmoking pregnant women also was studied.
Researchers then tested the newborns' pulmonary function at about 48 hours after birth. They measured how the newborn breathed in and out, how easily the baby's lungs moved, and how large the baby's lungs were. The results showed that babies born to smoking women who took vitamin C had significantly improved lung function at birth compared to babies whose mothers took a placebo.
Again, vitamin C will not erase all the effects smoking can have on an infant. The best choice is to quit smoking entirely. However, if you simply cannot quit or find yourself relapsing, then the next best course of action would be to add vitamin C to your supplements during pregnancy.
- American Academy of Pediatrics (2013, May 4). Vitamin C may head off lung problems in babies born to pregnant smokers. ScienceDaily.