The placenta and your baby’s nutrients

April 4, 2017 General Health

Hello all!

This week I wanted to post an article about a topic that may seem redundant but is actually very important. After seeing a young woman downtown smoking while pregnant I was inspired to post this. Many women know that you should not smoke while you are pregnant but perhaps they do not know why or that there are healthier options for those who struggle to give up smoking. Today I want to discuss all of that.

To begin, the placenta is an organ that is attached to the lining of your womb during pregnancy and is connected to the baby via the umbilical cord, which attaches to the amniotic sac. The placenta has many functions but in its most basic definition it acts as a filter for your baby whilst he or she is developing inside the womb. Like a tea strainer or a coffee filter the placenta allows certain things like nutrients and vitamins in, and keeps things like bacteria out. One of the most important things that passes through the placenta to your baby is blood. In that blood, oxygen and vital nutrients feed your baby and enable the proper development to occur. The placenta also produces hormones to help your baby grow. in addition to all of that, the filtering aspect allows carbon dioxide that your baby has produced to pass back through the placenta and into your bloodstream so that your body may dispose of it appropriately. Here is a depiction of the uterus with emphasis on the placenta and it’s placement.

As amazing as the placenta is, there are somethings it cannot prevent. It is a filter and it’s purpose is to keep certain things out but there are some things that can pass through. While most bacteria are stopped by the placenta, viruses are able to pass through and can affect your developing baby’s health.

When it comes to your baby, it is considered general knowledge that what you eat, drink, and partake in gets passed to your growing child. What some may not know is that this includes caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, controlled or illegal substances, and other edibles, inhalants, or injectables that can negatively affect you and your baby. Doctors recommend that you remove these substances from your diet as soon as you know you are pregnant, or if you are actively trying to have a baby then when you begin to pursue pregnancy. None of these substances are good for your baby, and some can cause permanent damage.

Today I want to focus on smoking, not just for the purpose of nicotine addiction, but also because of the general side effects that smoking can have on your baby. For starters all of the negative side effects that happen to you can when you smoke can also affect your developing child. On top of the addiction that nicotine causes, the substances that you inhale when smoking a cigarette that are bad for you, such as carbon monoxide and other toxins, can pass through the placenta and affect your unborn child. Furthermore smoke and tar clog up the placenta and make if difficult for your baby to receive the nutrients they need. This can cause children nurtured by a woman who smokes to be underdeveloped at critical stages of their growth and can cause permanent damage after birth. It can also mean that your baby may be required to remain in the hospital for a longer period of time after birth.

After discussing this problem with Dr. Paschall, I have discovered that, rather like the images of a smokers lungs, with which we are all probably familiar, the amniotic fluid and placenta can be discoloured and putrid when a women delivers a child while smoking during her pregnancy. While I have not experienced this personally, many doctors have, in spite of the advice given to expectant mothers.

In addition, women who smoke are more likely to suffer placental abruption during their pregnancy and have an increased risk if they have smoked over a long period of time in the course of their lives. Placental abruption is when the placenta pulls away from the inner lining of the uterus, either partially or completely, prior to delivery causing bleeding in the mother and a deprivation of oxygen and nutrients to the fetus.

It can be both visible/revealed (external) or concealed (internal). With a revealed abruption you will see blood coming from the vagina. If the abruption is concealed the mother will experience pain, but may not be able to identify the cause. She will need to consult an OBGYN. If the abruption reaches or exceeds 40% then it will be visible on an ultrasound but possibly not otherwise.

If left untreated it can cause a great deal of damage to both the mother and child and possibly put them both at risk.

If you are an expectant mother who smokes or are wanting or trying to have a baby and finding it difficult to stop smoking, there are ways and medications to help wean you off of cigarettes. Wellbutrin is one of these medications that can be recommended and prescribed by your doctor. This particular drug can assist you with a number of things such as anxiety and weight gain, but it also happens to help people stop smoking by working with your dopamine receptors. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that regulates your brain’s pleasure and reward centres and assists with emotional responses. There are other medications that can assist you in your quest to stop smoking.

Consult your doctor for further information on the subject, or if you are in the area Dr. Paschall would love to meet you. Call us to book an appointment. Have a great week everyone. Until next time!

All the best,

-E