The Effects of Nicotine on Newborns
Nicotine is a drug that is considered to have negative side effects on babies similar to illegal drug use during pregnancy, notes Science Daily. Casual smoking, even as few as six cigarettes per day, can cause physical effects on newborn babies. Although cigarette smoking is legal, pregnant women who continue to smoke during pregnancy may have babies who exhibit withdrawal symptoms similar to babies who have withdrawal symptoms from heroin or crack, explains Science Daily.
Stunted Growth and Brain Development
Dr. Sears explains that nicotine reduces the amount of oxygen-rich blood that flows to a baby in the womb. Carbon monoxide from the cigarette smoke blocks the oxygen, slowing both the physical growth of the baby and its brain development. Baby Center notes that mothers who smoke during pregnancy double the chance that the baby will be small at birth, possibly weighing less than 5 1/2 lbs. Altered brain development can also affect the center of the brain that regulates bodily organs such as the lungs and heart. Dr. Sears goes on to explain that nicotine’s effect on the brain is thought to increase the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.
- Dr. Sears explains that nicotine reduces the amount of oxygen-rich blood that flows to a baby in the womb.
- Dr. Sears goes on to explain that nicotine’s effect on the brain is thought to increase the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.
Immature Lungs and Prematurity
Newborns that are born to mothers who smoke have an increased risk of being born prematurely. Baby Center explains that babies who are born too early often have immature lungs that cannot handle breathing on their own and may require medical assistance for the first few days or even weeks of the baby’s life. Asthma is also more frequent in babies who were exposed to nicotine while in the womb.
The behavior of a newborn exposed to nicotine is similar to the behavior of a newborn exposed to illicit drugs such as cocaine. Brown Medical School explains that newborns exposed to nicotine exhibit symptoms such as jitteriness and excitability. Brown also notes that these babies are difficult to console and may be stiff or rigid when held. The amount of cigarettes smoked by the mother during pregnancy will influence the severity of these symptoms.
- The behavior of a newborn exposed to nicotine is similar to the behavior of a newborn exposed to illicit drugs such as cocaine.
- Brown Medical School explains that newborns exposed to nicotine exhibit symptoms such as jitteriness and excitability.
PCP Effects on the Fetus
Newborns exposed to nicotine exhibit symptoms as they grow and get older. According to Dr. Sears, these newborns may have a lower level of mental performance by the time they are a year old and lower I.Q. scores once they become school age. These newborns may also grow to be smaller in stature with a smaller head circumference than other children who weren’t exposed to nicotine while in the womb.
- Newborns exposed to nicotine exhibit symptoms as they grow and get older.
- These newborns may also grow to be smaller in stature with a smaller head circumference than other children who weren’t exposed to nicotine while in the womb.
PCP Effects on the Fetus
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- Science Daily: Nicotine Changes Newborn Behavior Similar to Heroin and Crack
- Ask Dr.Sears: How Smoking Harms Babies
- Baby Center: How Smoking During Pregnancy Affects You and Your Baby
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults in the United States. Updated November 18, 2019.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics. The American Academy of Pediatrics Issues Sweeping Recommendations on Tobacco and e-Cigarettes.
- Duke University Health System. Smokers Double Their Quit Rate By Wearing Nicotine Patch Before Stopping. Updated January 20, 2016.
- National Cancer Institute. Study finds stronger nicotine dependency associated with higher risk of lung cancer. 2014.
- Willett JG, Bennett M, Hair EC, et al. Recognition, use, and perceptions of JUUL among youth and young adults. Tob Control. 2019;28(1):115-116. doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2018-054273
- Mishra A, Chaturvedi P, Datta S, Sinukumar S, Joshi P, Garg A. Harmful effects of nicotine. Indian J Med Paediatr Oncol. 2015;36(1):24-31. doi:10.4103/0971-5851.151771
- National Institutes of Health. Managing Withdrawal. smokefree.gov.
Amber Canaan has a medical background as a registered nurse in labor and delivery and pediatric oncology. She began her writing career in 2005, focusing on pregnancy and health. Canaan has a degree in science from the Cabarrus College of Health Sciences and owns her own wellness consulting business.