So you’ve just found out the news that you’re pregnant. CONGRATULATIONS! It’s an exciting time of your life, and no doubt, a scary one as well. If you found out pretty early, you probably haven’t noticed much change in your body yet; but it seems that the minute you get a positive test result back – everything starts to change. And one of those things is your sense of smell.
All of a sudden, your smoker husband who you’ve never really had any issues with, smells like the devil in dirty socks. You literally can’t stand to be around him. I’ve been there. I know exactly what it’s like.
For years I was a casual smoker. From my days as a teenager rebelling, through my 20s, until one day my Doctor told me I had silent reflux and if I didn’t stop smoking, it would get worse, and could even lead to throat cancer. I quit smoking that day and have never picked up a cigarette since. That was about 2 years before I fell pregnant with my first child. Having been a smoker myself, I didn’t mind the smell of my husband lighting up. But the minute that test came back positive, I couldn’t go within metres of him, so upon telling him the news that we were expecting our first child, we silently hugged from a distance. From that moment on, he started to smoke metres away from me – not just because I could no longer stand the smell, but because we both understood that smoking near a pregnant woman was not only harmful to her, but also the unborn child.
So, why should pregnant women stay away from smokers?
Aside from not being able to stand the stink… It’s kind of like quitting smoking yourself when you find out you’re expecting. We know that smoking a cigarette fills your body with more than 4,000 chemicals, including 60 compounds that are directly linked to cancer, not to mention cyanide and lead (ugh!). So if you have a baby who is also feeding off you, guess what they’re getting? A nice cocktail of all those chemicals – plus nicotine and carbon monoxide.
That’s why we quit smoking.
But sometimes, quitting is not enough and research has actually found that second hand smoke – not to mention cigarette butts and ash, are also detrimental to both mother and baby’s health.
Second hand smoke
As with first hand smoke, second hand smoke has also been shown to contain around 4,000 different chemicals, with the same amount linked to cancer; so someone lighting up near you, could be causing you and your baby a lot more harm than they think. Exposure to second hand smoke when you’re pregnant can lead to a myriad of problems with your own health, and the health of your baby, including premature labour, low birth weight, miscarriage; and if they are born healthy, it could lead to them suffering from learning or behavioural issues into the future. There is even research that suggests children who are exposed to second hand smoke when in the womb could also be more at risk from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Babies exposed to second hand smoke are also more likely to suffer from childhood illness, such as chest and ear infections, colds and things like asthma.
Dangers of third hand smoke
So you and your husband have both quit smoking and you are staying away from people who are smoking around you, moving away or asking them to smoke elsewhere – that’s all fair enough. Ever heard of third hand smoke? This is the kind of smoke you might be exposed to and you don’t even know it. It’s the smell … the musty smell that you have in your carpets or curtains, your husband’s hair an hour after he’s finished a cigarette, in the walls of your home (if anyone smokes indoors). You don’t even realise it is there and even if you haven’t had a smoker in the home for months, it can still be there. In fact, third hand smoke can stick in the walls and floors for years. Have you ever walked into an empty home during a house inspection and it smells like smoke, even though no one has lived in it for over a year? That’s the smell of residue soaked up. So why is this dangerous? It might not be as obvious, but third hand smoke is still full of toxins, and if you’re pregnant, those toxins can enter your bloodstream any time you take a breath. Your baby then feeds from your blood and research has found, this type of exposure has led to things like asthma and lung development problems in infants.
So it doesn’t matter if you, your husband and all of your family and friends have quit smoking, you might still be exposed through second or third hand smoking. The best thing to do is to completely clean out your home before you decide to start trying to conceive, or if it’s too late and your expecting already, then do it in the early days of pregnancy. Have a professional come in and clean the carpets, use some good soap on the walls, make sure you wash any clothes or linen that smell, and maybe just send a warning out to your friends who smoke that you’re not being rude, but you’re going to stand at a distance for the next 9 months or so.