Paternal smoking and quitting: Would-be fathers’ role in ensuring the health of unborn offspring, says a renowned Fetal Medicine Expert from IVI Fetal Clinic
It is no secret that smoking is harmful to the body. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), tobacco epidemic kills over 8 million people annually — at least seven million of them were tagged as direct tobacco users, while an estimated 1.2 million were victims of second-hand smoking.
Many pieces of evidence also strongly support the potential hazards of smoking for foetus. It is believed that smoking reduces the blood flow for the baby and increases its heart rate but it also raises the risks of premature birth, miscarriage and stillbirth, birth defects such as cleft lip or cleft palate, placental abruption, low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome, and many more.
However, as backed by a recently released study, it is not just the mothers’ responsibility to do away with the habit. Apparently, fathers who smoke may have also been unknowingly causing harm to their kids while they are still in the womb.
Dr. Desislava, Lead Fetal Medicine, IVI Fetal Medical Clinic has an interesting observation to make, “a study of chemical changes to DNA reveals that a foetus that is exposed to tobacco smoke from its dad is highly likely to suffer from asthma by age six compared with those who have not experienced prenatal smoke exposure. A news report wrote that the risk is higher for babies who are exposed to more than 20 cigarettes per day during pregnancy as opposed to those who are exposed to less than 20 daily cigarettes or with no prenatal tobacco smoke exposure at all.”
Apart from asthma, there are also other numerous health issues that can impact the child’s quality of life due to prenatal tobacco exposure as shown by other separate studies.
The results further emphasise the shared role of both mothers and fathers in ensuring the healthy development of their babies, starting from the planning stage or that moment when the couples have decided to conceive. Fathers are equally responsible to make healthy choices and actions incongruent with the overall well-being of their kids before, during, and after pregnancy.
For example, mothers are strongly advised to avoid exposure to second-hand smoking while pregnant as it is detrimental to her health and her baby’s. Men who smoke can be the likely source of second-hand smoking for their pregnant wives, as such, quitting early on can do great wonders for their offspring’s physical development and condition.
Likewise, it is significant to point out that, once they have decided to stop smoking, parents should strive to not go back to their old habit after giving birth, as well as make it a point to build a no-smoking home environment for their children. Breastfeeding mums should not resume their cigarette use to help ensure healthy milk production and avoid passing harmful chemicals to their children.
Ultimately, it is important to keep in mind that quitting adds value to your children’s lives and increases their chances of having a happy and quality existence. It also benefits the entire family as both mothers and fathers are also, in effect, taking care of themselves by saying goodbye to the bad habit. They are better off and can more effectively take care of their children.
Giving up this habit is understandably hard but it is not impossible. It starts with rearranging your priorities now that you are a parent and staying committed to the decision. Additionally, several concerned organisations offer programs to help individuals who are planning to quit but are having a difficult time. Couples can ask their doctors, midwives, or nurses for referrals to assist them in their plan. All the initiatives and the sacrifices are going to be worth it.
This article is written by Dr. Desislava, Fetal Medicine Lead at of IVI Fetal Medicine Clinic