Surgeon General report: smoking while pregnant

The new year calls for a fresh start, a time to try something new, kick start a healthy lifestyle or stop a bad habit.

Resolutions are tough to keep, but it’s not always only personal health that is at risk. Quitting smoking is at the top of the list, both as a popular resolution and as birth defect prevention.

One in seven women in Lyon County admits to smoking while pregnant.

This drastically increases the risk of premature birth and birth defects. Just this month, the U.S. Surgeon General released a report confirming that smoking during pregnancy causes babies to be born with cleft lip and cleft palate.

Smoking during pregnancy exposes the baby to dangerous chemicals such as nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar.

These chemicals can reduce how much oxygen the baby gets, affecting the baby’s growth and development.

The report also states that each year about 1,000 infant deaths can be attributed to smoking. Of those, about 40 percent are classified as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), the unexplained death of a baby under a year old while sleeping.

January is National Birth Defects Month and the March of Dimes is devoted to raising awareness about birth defects and ways to prevent them. Every four-and-a-half minutes a baby is born in the United States with a major birth defect.

But, smoking is not the only precursor. Taking certain medications, having uncontrolled diabetes, and drinking alcohol during pregnancy are also prime causes.

Taking folic acid is the one of the easiest steps for a pregnant woman to take in preventing birth defects like spina bifida.

Taking a daily multivitamin containing the B vitamin before and during the early months of pregnancy is crucial in preventing serious birth defects of the brain and spine.

Not pregnant but hope to be someday? There are still several steps you can take now to have a healthy pregnancy in the future: get a preconception checkup, ensure your vaccinations are up to date and learn about your health history.

The fanfare of the holidays has worn off. It’s time to buckle down on maintaining, not just beginning, resolutions.

It may not only be important for your health, but for the health of your baby, too.