Maternal cigarette smoking in the first trimester was associated with a 20 to 70 percent greater likelihood that a baby would be born with certain types of congenital heart defects, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defects, contributing to approximately 30 percent of infant deaths from birth defects annually.

The study found an association between tobacco exposure and certain types of defects such as those that obstruct the flow of blood from the right side of the heart into the lungs (right ventricular outflow tract obstructions) and openings between the upper chambers of the heart (atrial septal defects). The study is in the Feb. 28 issue of the journal Pediatrics.

"Women who smoke and are thinking about becoming pregnant need to quit smoking and, if they're already pregnant, they need to stop," said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. "Quitting is the single most important thing a woman can do to improve her health as well as the health of her baby."

Based on the findings of this and other studies, eliminating smoking before or very early in pregnancy could prevent as many as 100 cases of right ventricular outflow tract obstructions and 700 cases of atrial septal defects each year in the United States. For atrial septal defects alone, that could potentially save $16 million in hospital costs.

"Successfully stopping smoking during pregnancy also lowers the chances of pregnancy complications such as preterm delivery and that an infant will have other complications such as low birth weight," said Adolfo Correa, M.D., Ph.D., medical officer in CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

The findings from the study are based on a large population-based case-control study of congenital heart defects conducted in the United States.

Congenital heart defects are conditions present at birth that decrease the ability of the heart to work well, which can result in an increased likelihood of death or long-term disabilities. They affect nearly 40,000 infants in the United States every year.

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When my husband and I were trying to have a baby, we gave up smoking together. Once we conceived (hooray!) and after the baby was born, I picked up smoking again. I usually only did it when I was pushing the little one in one of her strollers. I thought since she was facing the other way, that the canopy would protect her from the smoke. But after talking to my doctor, he said secondhand smoke is just as dangerous, and maybe more, than smoking while you're pregnant. I immediately gave it up and haven't looked back!

Thanks for this post. There is much that women can do by way of prevention during pregnancy - avoiding tobacco, good nutrition, moderate exercise. These can all help them reduce risk for the health of their babies (and for the women themselves).

I'm actually glad that I quit smoking for the birth of my son. Although I miss smoking still after 3 years, it really is the best thing I've done.

Smoking kills. That everybody knows. However, anyone can stop smoking right now. The essential element is the will to stop smoking. Must always start from here. Especially when you are ready to give birth... the most important thing is that the child should not suffer for your addiction !

Hi I totally agree with that. I think it's about the health of your unborn baby and it would be selfish to keep smoking during pregnancy. Try at least to stop it during pregnancy and breast feeding. Fab

Thanks for highlighting such a life altering issue. I know that smokers often have difficulty at times understanding that what they put into their bodies during pregnancy goes straight to their baby. I was very relieved when my daughter gave up smoking just before getting pregnant with our first grandchild. Of course I don't think she ate healthy enough but I'm grateful that she wasn't smoking as well.

Great article...Researcher Dr Jo Leonardi-Bee said: “Mothers’ smoking during pregnancy is well-recognized as carrying a range of serious health risks for the unborn baby including fetal mortality, low birth weight, premature birth and a range of serious birth defects such as cleft palate, club foot and heart problems. Since passive smoking involves exposure to the same range of tobacco toxins experienced by active smokers, albeit at lower levels, it is likely that coming into contact with second-hand smoke also increases the risk of some of all of these complications.”

It is a shame that there are so many women who has difficulty getting pregnant yet there are pregnant women smoking. Smoking is not good for healthy, non-pregnant woman anyways.

Hi, I must say that you have made some good points in the post. I performed searches on the topic and found most people will agree with your blog. Thanks for sharing this information.

Most of these studies don't seem to address whether a disease is due to "smoking" or actual Nicotine intake. In this day and age I'd be curious to see what the results of such a study -- especially since electronic cigarettes are becoming so popular.. Any thoughts?

I would get so mad when people tried to smoke around me while I was pregnant. Momma bear would come out! I think it is awful to harm your unborn baby by smoking when you are pregnant.

Congenital heart defects are conditions present at birth that decrease the ability of the heart to work well(from above) Yes as I do agree with this statement as I now suffer with a heart problem that during my moms Pregnancy they both smoked and then I picked up this bad habit later in my own life. Which only added to my heart problem. So even though I agree women SHOULD think about quiting it is still a question of do they wish to? If not for themselves think of their child's future. Parents would die for their kids, rather than to see them get hurt, but this one, is a tough issue.

I am curios if smokeless cigarettes help in pregnancy. My wife is pregnant and we are trying to get her to quit.

I wish me and my wife have had the courage to quit smoking when she was pregnant...Our baby was born fine, but he is dealing with bronquites today (hes 2). It is the utmost regret we have.

Interesting article and comments. I have also heard that smoking whilst pregnant reduces the birth weight of the baby, not to mention to potential complications smoking has on unborn babies. I'd also like to recommend smoking mums seek sound medical advice when looking to quit smoking as it's important to understand the implications of nicotine replacement therapies, and any potential risks. Also check with your medical professional whether quitting smoking via alternative methods such as acupuncture or laser treatments which may be a healthier alternative when pregnant.

Great article and smoking isn't healthy. during pregnancy and after. The newborn is still affected from second hand smoke

Sharon, just the photo alone is disturbing. My brother's mother-in-law passed from cancer from smoking. She smoked during all 3 of her pregnancies. Her comment was "It was the sixties, everyone did it." It's astounding in 2011 that tobacco still has a grip on people like it does. David

I usually only did it when I was pushing the little one in one of her strollers. I thought since she was facing the other way, that the canopy would protect her from the smoke.

My friend smoked during her pregnancy and it really really upset me enormously. Why would anyone risk the safety of their infant?? As a mother or 2 children I just don't get it!

My husband had quit smoking when we decided to have a baby. Thanks for this post.

Thanks for the article, i'm constantly amazed and shocked at how many pregnant women and new mothers i see smoking, and often in enclosed spaces 1e: in the car! its not right to be putting a life you are supposed to care for at risk.

I think pregnant women should quite in smoking since it will have a bad effect to their infant. There will be abnormalities to the baby when it comes out. So, in order to avoid this to be happen mothers will stop smoking.

Thanks for the article, i’m constantly amazed and shocked at how many pregnant women and new mothers i see smoking, and often in enclosed spaces 1e: in the car! its not right to be putting a life you are supposed to care for at risk.

Great useful and effective info. Sure! all are true and we should have to guide our spouse don't smoke during pregnant.

Yes, it´s really amazing. There´s an avalanche of baby safety products showering us every day and we go to great lenghts to keep our babies safe. And still we have to point out that smoking is indeed very harmful.

While I do feel for those who have difficulties in stopping smoking while pregnant, I agree that the paramount importance is the health of the child. I would like to know the best way, without being seen as too judgemental, how to point out the dangers to family members or friends who continue to smoke during pregnancy.

I can see if they did not know that they were pregnant at first but to keep smoking is just plain ridiculous. People need to be more educated on how much smoking really damages your body let alone a child that growing inside of you, really gets me mad.

It is so unfortunate that moms get caught in the addiction of smoking and then either can't seem to stop or don't truly understand the harmful effects that smoking causes especially to their unborn children. This health risks like heart disease and excessive insurance costs associated with this issue are just as detrimental as those involving obesity in adults. The thing I think we fail to forget is that these things impact not only ourselves, but everyone else in society as well. In this case, the babies are the most innocent victims.