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Foetal Tobacco Syndrome

Updated on February 12, 2016
Image courtesy of duron123 at
Image courtesy of duron123 at

There are many loving things an expectant mother can do to take good care of her growing baby bump. She can eat good food, get good rest, give up alcohol and stop smoking.

As well as being perniciously addictive, smoking tobacco inflicts many harmful chemicals on a smoker, and on to everyone around them. The chemicals that surround a smoker include;

Carbon monoxide (an oxygen blocker)
Benzene (a carcinogen)
Ammonia (caustic and hazardous)
Hydrogen cyanide (aka rat poison)
Formaldehyde (a carcinogen)
Nicotine (an insecticide)

Image courtesy of twobee at
Image courtesy of twobee at

Mothers who choose to smoke, or remain in smoky atmospheres, run the rise of having their baby develop Foetal Tobacco Syndrome (FTS). FTS has been a recognised medical condition since 1985.

FTS occurs when the following criteria apply;

1) The mother has smoked at least five cigarettes per day throughout her pregnancy.

2) The mother did not show any signs of abnormally high blood pressure (hypertension) throughout her pregnancy.

3) The baby is born small, demonstrating a low birth weight.

The health implications of smoking during pregnancy are potentially catastrophic. According to the UK’s NHS Choices site, smoking when pregnant can;

Increase the risk of pregnancy complications
Increase the risk of stillbirth
Increase the risk of the baby being born prematurely
Increase the risk of cot death

Image courtesy of phanlop88 at
Image courtesy of phanlop88 at

My Story

Some women choose to continue to smoke throughout their pregnancy. I know my mother did. She was a young Mum, and back in 1980 we were still getting to grips with just how damaging smoking is for our health.

My Mum was a teenager when she had me. In her mind, though she realised that smoking when pregnant was wrong, she didn’t stop. She tells me that she ate more food in order to compensate, in case I was going to be ‘born small’.

I get the feeling that, in a way, she wanted me to be born small. She was young, and the thought of childbirth must have been terrifying. I understand. Unfortunately, babies aren’t just ‘born small’. The lack of a chance to develop fully in the womb can have disastrous consequences for the child’s development. Plus, smaller babies find it more difficult to stay warm and fight infections.

As it turns out, I was a very poorly baby. I was whisked away from my mother at birth. I spent my first few days of life in an incubator at the Trevor Mann Baby Unit in the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton. I’ve always made the connection between my shaky start in life, and her decision to smoke during pregnancy.

Smoking: Not worth the money. Or the risk.
Smoking: Not worth the money. Or the risk. | Source

The long term consequences of foetal tobacco syndrome are still being discovered. At present, all we really have to go on are results from experimentation that has been done on animals. These studies show that nicotine is the key damaging chemical that maternal smoking imparts on to the babies. The offspring go on to suffer fertility issues, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, neurobehavioral issues and respiratory dysfunction.

If you are pregnant, and you are finding it difficult to give up smoking, think about what your baby would say if he or she could speak.

They’d want to trust that you are keeping them safe, and giving them the very best start. Life is hard enough, without being born poorly because of all the chemicals that are found in cigarette smoke.

Smoking while pregnant really isn’t worth the risk. Please don’t.

Smoking Stinks


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    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 21 months ago from the short journey

      Across the board, doctors agree about this issue, but it is important to speak up on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves and that you were a victim makes your speaking up more powerful. To be fair to moms who smoked while pregnant, they may not have had the information they needed to make the right decision, but that excuse is much rarer today than years ago.

    • Kimberleyclarke profile image

      Kimberley Clarke 21 months ago from England

      Thank you for stopping by, RTalloni. I know that addiction is a very complex issue. I also know that smoking is so awful, especially for a developing baby. In fact - I don't think that smoking has any plus sides! I know people may feel less stressed, or rather more relaxed, when they smoke. But those feelings are so short lived. So, they have to smoke again. Their body craves the chemicals. Watching a heavy smoker realise that they need their fix again is quite distressing. I grew up around heavy smoking. And indeed, I think giving a voice to those who can't speak is important. Thanks again for stopping by!

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