Smoking and drinking during pregnancy

 Posted by on November 5, 2008 at 11:09 am  Characters
Nov 052008
 

Betty is smoking ad drinking during her pregnancy. What are the risks? For smoking, the risk of preeclampsia is actually lower, but all other risks are high:

women who smoke are about twice as likely to experience complications such as placenta previa…
Risk for having a baby in the smallest 5% to 10% of birth weights is as high as 2.5 times greater for pregnant smokers.

Post-partum risks include SIDS:

women’s smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of pregnancy complications, premature delivery, low-birth-weight infants, stillbirth, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Risks of alcohol use are not as clear. Moderate drinking is hotly debated. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is something that occurs only when there’s excessive drinking, but no one is sure how much is too much.

Some experts say moderate drinking during pregnancy is okay, but there are others who believe taking even one drink is like playing Russian Roulette with your baby’s health.

What about horseback riding?

Horseback riding is a great sport, but not always such a great one to perform during pregnancy…If you’re riding slowly on flat terrain with little risk of falling (either you or the horse!), then I’d say it’s probably fine for you to continue until the middle of your second trimester. If you’re riding at a fast pace on hilly and/or rocky terrain, which increases your and your horse’s risk of falling, I’d say that riding, particularly after the first trimester, is probably not a great idea. Of course, it goes without saying that jumping is not a recommended activity at any point in your pregnancy.

Our mother (because, y’know, Roberta and I are sisters) smoked during all four of her pregnancies. She doesn’t much drink, so maybe there was a glass of wine somewhere once. And she doesn’t ride horses. But we survived.

Statistical risks are just that: Statistical. Lower birth weight may be just statistical: 6 lbs versus 6 1/2, or it may be “low birth weight,” an actual medical condition. But if no one is focusing on the risks of smoking during pregnancy, then if there’s a complication, the Drapers will think of it as just the tragic luck of the draw.

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  16 Responses to “Smoking and drinking during pregnancy”

  1. I was thinking that maybe Betty would give birth to a baby with Down Syndrome from all the drinking. That would be like a television first, two main characters with a special needs child, and in the goddamn sixties, no less. The dramatic possibilities would be astounding. What would go through the character's minds? How would they treat the child? How did society deal with special needs families in the 60s?

  2. First time poster, avid reader coming out of lurkdom.

    Jorge….Down syndrome is a chromosomal condition, i.e. a genetic defect, smoking would not contribute to it's development.

    In general to this post, Betty's children are not only affected by the smoking she did while pregnant but also the constant smoking that is occurring while they are growing up. However it's true, the ills of smoking while pregnant wouldn't have even been on their radar.

  3. err, drinking doesn't contribute to Down's syndrome either…should read before I post. Sorry

  4. Again we're applying current knowledge into a 1960's show. Today's statistics show that drinking and smoking may be damaging, but back then, you just carried on. My brother and I are also 2 mid-Sixties children who did just fine after being born of a smoking and occasional toddy drinking mother.

    Also, if they were to have a Downs baby (chromosomal not alcohol caused please), they would likely place it in an institution. I have friends who have an older sister who they never really knew because of this. Just better to keep up appearances and not talk of unpleasant things, I suppose. That would be par for the course in Betty's family's world.

  5. Yes, of course we're applying current knowledge, but smoking during pregnancy was just as bad for babies then as it is now; birthrates were lowered just as much, risk of SIDS was increased. Just because they didn't have widespread knowledge of the cause of these problems didn't mean the problems weren't there.

  6. So true, Deborah. My brother was born in the 40's and I was born in the 50's and like Betty, my mom smoked through both pregnancies. Fortunately, the only thing we seemed to have due to the smoking was low birth weight. My brother didn't quite way 6 lbs. and I weighed just a smidgeon over 6 lbs. Of course, some of this is probably due to the fact that back then, doctors discouraged women from gaining very much weight at all, but I think the smoking was the main reason. When it came out much later about smoking during pregnancy and how dangerous it is, my mother told me that if she had known about that, she never would have smoked during her pregnancies. Both of my parents smoked most of my childhood years and quit when I was in my early teens in the late 60's. By the way, neither my brother or myself smoke.

  7. Please read this NYX article, which pretty much dispels the excess to which Americans with alcoholic abstinence during pregnancy and opens your eyes to other myths believed elsewhere. Basically, after the first trimester, light drinking of wine or beer is perfectly fine. Most studies have only focused on heavy drinking.

    Jorge, look up "Life Goes On" with a young Claire Danes. Or was it a young Kellie Martin? I'm always confusing their early 1990s shows.

  8. …which Americans go with their…

  9. Would it be taking the Betty as Jackie Kennedy comparison to far it this baby became a short lived premie or still born like Patrick?

    Of course Betty would not spend her recovery with some Jet Setters in the Mediterranean, and Don need not get murdered afterwards. And anyway there will be a time jump

  10. Pixelwax, Kellie Martin was in "Life Goes On" and Claire Danes was in the wonderful, yet short-lived, "My So-Called Life." Very easy to get the titles confused. :)

  11. pixelwax, Life Goes On was the show, with Kellie Martin, playing sister to Corky, who had Down Syndrome. My So-Called Life was with Claire Danes.

  12. Jan W, I owe you a coke.

  13. Are we really going to start talking about the smoking and drinking NOW? Last season the neighbor was running around at 9+ months with a cigarette in one hand and a mint julip in the other. It's the way things were done at the time, I don't know why it took the medical community so long to make the connection.

  14. The hazards of smoking during pregnancy weren't completely unknown. I was conceived in March and born in December of 1960. My mother, who smoked cigarettes heavily, was advised by her doctor to quit – and she did, cold turkey, for the duration of her pregnancy. I know it must have a huge struggle, because unfortunately she started up smoking again soon after I was born, and was only able to quit again (for good) sixteen years later and after numerous attempts.

    So I'm lucky that my mother was able to stop while she was pregnant, although I did inhale my share of second-hand smoke during childhood. (I hated it, so, bonus: I've never been tempted to become a smoker myself!)

    All this is in Canada, by the way; but I doubt that Canadian physicians were necessarily ahead of their American counterparts in their awareness of the hazards of smoking.

  15. P.S. The doctor's advice to quit may have been partially influenced by the fact that I was considered a "late baby" at the time (my mom was 37). So he may have felt that I'd need every advantage I could get! Still, he definitely did tell my mother that if she smoked, it would be hazardous to her unborn baby's health…

  16. D'OH! I confused mental disabilities related to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome with Down Syndrome. Of course all the people after me were right.

    #7 pixelwax, thanks for the recommendation.

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