Cigarettes: The Deadly Teratogen
Dr. Lydia Thebeau
April 2, 2012
Cigarettes: The Deadly Teratogen
La‘Aaron Carpenter was born on July 25, 2003. Very shortly after he was born, La’Aaron was diagnosed with asthma, after he had a severely bad case of bronchitis. His cognitive and physical development was much more delayed than other infants that were his age. La’Aaron began walking, talking, and even siting up on his own much later than other children his age. As he began to get older, La’Aaron began to have a distinct physical appearance similar to a child whom had Down syndrome. On April 4, 2005, my nephew La’Aaron Carpenter passed away from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
La’Aaron’s mother was a heavy cigarette smoker whom smoked over a pack a day of cigarettes during and after her pregnancy. The effects that cigarettes have on a fetus or/and an infant are seriously significant due to the fact that at this time their respiratory system is not functioning at full capacity. Exactly how and when the teratogenic effects of cigarettes will be discussed along with characteristics and methods of prevention of exposure will be discussed.
Cigarettes are small, finely cut particles of tobacco rolled in thin papers that people use for smoking. Tobacco is not the only substance present in cigarettes. In fact, there are over 600 ingredients in cigarettes and when burned cigarettes create more than 4,000 hazardous chemicals (Fighting Air). Some of the chemicals are naturally found in the environment, while other are man-made.
With all of the hazardous chemicals in cigarettes, either smoking while pregnant or being around someone whom smokes can be very detrimental to a growing fetus. With the size and composition of nicotine and carbon dioxide, these substances readily cross the placenta (Woolsteen). These two compounds account for nearly every smoking related instance that occurs in utero. Nicotine constricts uterine blood vessels causing a decrease in uterine blood flow. This lowers the amount of oxygen and nutrients available to the embryo/fetus from the maternal blood in the intervillous space of the placenta (Moore). This would impair cell growth and may also have an adverse effect on mental development. The carbon monoxide readily crosses the placenta and binds to hemoglobin molecules, decreasing the amount of oxygen that the baby receives (Woolsteen). The carbon monoxide depletes the mother’s oxygen as well, which is the source of most of the fetus’s oxygen in utero (Werler). The decrease in oxygen can lead to many complications from IUGD to spontaneous abortion. In the womb, the lack of blood flow that the fetus receives causes permanent damage since oxygen is needed for the growth of the fetus. This would be detrimental to the growth and development of the fetus. Since babies do not fully use their circulation system until after there born, smoking during pregnancy has effects on the fetus through out the entire pregnancy. Since, most vital organs are formed during the first eight weeks of pregnancy, the need for oxygen to the embryo is very important. Smoking during pregnancy would have the most teratogenic effect during the first eight week. Not only does a mother directly smoking effect a growing fetus, but also second-hand smoke and a newly found effect that is being referred to as third-hand smoke. Second hand smoke refers to a mother who breathes in someone else’s smoke (Woolsteen). A woman whom breathes in the chemicals that are let out by a burning cigarette, the side-stream smoke, is exposed to higher amounts of carbon monoxide then the person that is actually smoking! Second-hand smoke causes 600,000 premature deaths per year (World Health Organization). The concept of third-hand smoke is much more interesting. Even if you are not in the room while a person is...
Bibliography: "10 Facts On Second Hand Smoke." World Health Organization. N.p., 01 Dec 2009. Web. 08 Apr 2012.
"What’s In A Cigarette." Fighting Air. American Lung Association, n.d. Web. 3 Apr 2012. .
Lowell, Dale. "What is third-hand smoke, and why is it a concern? " Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 20 Mar 2012. Web. 10 Apr 2012.
Moore, Keith L., and T.V.N. Persaud. The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology. 8th Edition. Philadelphia: Saunders, 2008. 109-472. Print.
Werler, Martha. "Teratology Update: Smoking and Reproductive Outcomes." Teratology n.pag. Web. 10 Apr 2012.
Woolsten, Chris. "How Smoking During Pregnancy Affect You and Your Baby." Baby Center. Baby Center, L.L.C, 19 Apr 2011. Web. 4 Apr 2012
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