Despite the large amount of research and warnings, studies have shown that 12% of pregnant women in America still smoke. Studies are also showing that smoking during pregnancy can actually alter the DNA of the fetus and lead to birth defects such as low birth weight, asthma, and cleft lips/palates. In order to collect this data, researchers gave questionnaires to 7,000 mothers from around the world where they were asked how often they smoked during their pregnancy. Also, they collected a blood sample from each newborn’s umbilical cords so that they could examine their DNA. The studies showed that DNA does not change the DNA sequence in smoke-affected babies, but affected which genes were turned on or off. For example, “methylation” is when a small molecule is added onto DNA, preventing a certain section from being turned on, which can lead to birth defects. Even though the fetuses aren’t breathing in the smoke, many toxins from cigarettes will pass through the placenta and into the fetus. Researchers believe that methylation plays a large role in the effects on the DNA in the fetus.
It is alarming to me that a percentage of pregnant women in the country still smoke while pregnant. Even though 12% is not that high while looking at the big picture, in reality 1% would still be too high a number. Also, this percentage doesn’t take into account the amount of women who lied and said they did not smoke while pregnant. The effects of smoke on adults is significant and can lead to a number of health complications over time such as various types of cancers and heart disease, so I can only image how many complications these affected fetuses will have growing up. It is also often said that these fetuses are more likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and if they do live, they have an increased chance of ADHD. Mothers are supposed to love and care for their children, and smoking while pregnant is selfish because their addiction can lead to lifelong complications or even death for their child.