Does Smoking Cause Birth Defects?

Does Smoking Cause Birth Defects?. Smoking which affects one’s own health also severely impacts the offsprings. Parents who smoke should be aware that along with harming themselves they are causing birth defects to their babies. To know more about smoking and birth defects, read the following article.Smoking Cause Birth Defects

Birth Defects

Birth defects are physical abnormalities or defects present in a baby at birth. The common birth defects are:

  • Cleft lip and palate: Deformities in the upper lip and roof of the mouth is called cleft lip and palate.
  • Clubfoot: When one or both of a baby’s feet are turned inward and downward and can not easily be moved into a normal position it is called club foot.
  • Limb defects: Defects that affect the limbs (arms and legs) are called limb defects. Limb defects include missing or extra fingers or toes, deficiencies in the length of the limb, etc.
  • Congenital heart defects: Congenital heart defects include ‘holes in the heart’. In this type of situation blood passes off from one side of the heart to the other.
  • Down syndrome: Down syndrome (DS), or Trisomy 21, is a major chromosomal problem, wherein, the baby gets extra genetic material from chromosome 21. Down syndrome can cause developmental disabilities and mental retardation.
  • Gastroschisis: It is an opening in the muscles of the abdomen that allows the intestines to appear outside the body.
  • Imperforate anus: In this situation there is no opening from the intestines to the outside of the body. So stool or gas is not allowed to pass out.

Smoking and Birth Defects

Babies born to parents who smoke have a higher risk of having some kinds of birth defects. Although mother’s smoking is the primary cause of all kinds of birth defects, a father who smokes is equally responsible for the baby’s birth defects. This is so because fathers harm their offspring long before they may even meet their future partner.

Tobacco smoke contains carbon monoxide and nicotine, which when released interferes and lowers the oxygen that gets delivered to the cells of the fetus. If cells are deprived of oxygen, they do not grow and multiply. When they do not proliferate, birth defects occur.


  • Numerous studies reveal that babies whose parents smoke are at great risk of developing cleft lip and/or palate.
  • Women who smoke during pregnancy are at a risk (1.5 to 2 times) of having babies with oral clefts. The risk compounds as they increase their cigarette intake.
  • 1 in 7 babies who carry a cleft-susceptibility gene are 8 times more likely to have oral clefts whose mothers smoke. But babies born to non-smoking mothers are at no greater risk.
  • Non-smoking mothers exposed to secondhand smoking have only a small increased risk.
  • The risk of oral clefts increased when both the parents smoke.

The development of the child does not happen at conception; rather, it happens years before. So, smokers should be cautious that they are not only affecting their own health, but they are also impacting the health of their offspring. So, health experts advise to give up smoking to prevent the offspring from birth defects.