As I approach my one-year anniversary from the time I quit smoking cigarettes (end of April!), I’ve been weighing all the positive effects that decision has had on my life. I was 19, had smoked for several years and was at nearly a pack a day for two years by the time I stopped. Now that I’m tobacco free, I try to spread the word about how much better life is without it. Smoking affects just about every part of your body negatively and can even harm those around you, but its effects on women are particularly alarming.
My first reality check on how smoking affects reproductive health was when I ended up in the hospital with what my doctors thought could be a blood clot. I was on birth control pills and smoking heavily — more than half a pack per day — but luckily the doctors were wrong. Beyond the potentially deadly combination of contraceptive pills and smoking, there are other impacts that smoking has that require no other element.
The most commonly addressed topic relating to reproductive health and smoking is the effect that it has during pregnancy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have babies that are born prematurely, have a lower birth weight and are up to three times more likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The American Cancer Society also notes that babies can be affected by harmful chemicals from smoking that are passed through breast milk.
In addition to the obvious conditions caused by smoking like lung cancer and heart disease, there are many lesser-known serious medical complications that can arise from cigarette smoking and tobacco use in general. A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology by the Yale University School of Medicine showed that an alarming number of women were unaware of female-specific smoking conditions such as: infertility, miscarriages, osteoporosis, early menopause, ectopic pregnancy and even cervical cancer.