Pregnancy, Tobacco Smoke and High Blood Pressure

Deanne Stein Health Guide
  • My little girl is now a month old and when I look at her, I realize she was worth all the pain and suffering I experienced during pregnancy and labor. Of course, that's pretty much what every mother feels, although it doesn't seem like it when you're enduring all that pain and suffering. And it wasn't just the physical pains of nausea, backaches and contractions, and, of course, those horrible Lovenox shots in the belly. It was also all the things I gave up during those 36 weeks.


    Most of the sacrifices were during the first trimester and included no caffeine, no hot dogs or cold deli sandwiches (unless the meat was steamed first), no tanning beds and no over-the-counter medications, except Tylenol and an occasional Benadryl. I also couldn't use my hot tub or enjoy a glass of wine. These were small things that really don't matter. I can do without a soak in the tub or a cup of coffee, but I do think I missed my morning coffee and Diet Cokes the most! And as my pregnancy went on, I was able to enjoy some of those things on a limited basis. I just chose to avoid them (except a Diet Coke now and then during my third trimester!). I made it through the first 12 or so weeks, what was a few more, I thought. But aside from a Diet Coke once in a while, I avoided everything that could potentially harm my child. The doctors are very adamant about stopping known dangers during pregnancy, such as drugs, alcohol and smoking.

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    A recent study published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association confirms the risks of tobacco smoke in infants, and it isn't just secondhand smoke after birth that is dangerous. In fact, most of the problems found in the study were in infants whose mothers smoked during pregnancy.


    The study of 456 infants in The Netherlands showed that by age two months, babies born to mothers who smoked had higher systolic blood pressures compared to those whose mothers didn't smoke and weren't exposed to smoke during pregnancy. Systolic blood pressure (SBP), the larger of the two numbers that make up a blood pressure reading, represents the blood pressure when the heart is fully contracted. Researchers say this shows yet another reason for women not to smoke during pregnancy. However, researchers didn't find a significant difference between smoke exposure and newborn diastolic blood pressure and heart rate. This is the lower number of a blood pressure reading and occurs when the heart relaxes.


    Researchers also found that newborns of mothers who smoked during pregnancy were significantly lighter, shorter and had a smaller chest circumference than other offspring. It's still unknown if these increases in blood pressure will continue over time, but the researchers do plan to follow the children for at least four to five years to see if the increase in systolic blood pressure continues as the children grow.


    High blood pressure is a common risk factor in heart disease and stroke. Some doctors say there is increasing evidence that later-life ischemic cardiovascular diseases originated in early childhood, so pinpointing an age where damage begins could help from a prevention standpoint.


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    Related Information:


    "High Blood Pressure by the Numbers"


    Causes and Risk Factors of High Blood Pressure 


    Symptoms of Heart Attack and Stroke 


    Read more of Deanne's blogs to learn more about her stroke recovery and pregnancy.




Published On: October 30, 2007