A WOMAN who smoked 10 cigarettes a day during her pregnancy has warned other mums of the dangers of smoking after her baby almost died in childbirth.
Mum-of-four Gemma Tucker, 40, from Bath, Somerset, had her first cigarette when she was 13 years old and quickly became addicted.
Seven years later, Gemma fell pregnant with her daughter Tiger-Lily and struggled to kick the habit.
She explained: "Back then, I knew smoking wasn't the greatest thing to do whilst pregnant but there weren't any strict rules and I never had a doctor or a midwife tell me to stop smoking.
"The only thing I was told was that I could have a smaller baby as a result of smoking."
As she hadn't been explicitly told not to smoke while pregnant, Gemma continued having her usual 10 cigarettes a day.
She added: "There was no pressure to give up; no one telling me that I really had to so I would just smoke as normal throughout my first two pregnancies."
When Tiger-Lily was born, Gemma says she was "a little on the small side" and weighed 5lb 11oz.
As Gemma believed smoking hadn't impacted her first pregnancy, she continued having cigarettes when she was expecting Dayne six years later.
However, Gemma believes that she smoking is what caused the placenta to "disintegrate" during her second pregnancy.
NHS guidance on stopping smoking during pregnancy:
Stopping smoking will help both you and your baby immediately. Harmful gases, such as carbon monoxide, and other damaging chemicals will clear from your body. When you stop smoking:
- you will reduce the risk of complications in pregnancy and birth
- you are more likely to have a healthier pregnancy and a healthier baby
- you will reduce the risk of stillbirth
- your baby is less likely to be born too early and have to face the breathing, feeding and health problems that often go with being premature
- your baby is less likely to be born with a low birth weight. Babies of smokers are, on average, 200g (about 8oz) lighter than other babies, which can cause problems during and after labour. For example, they are more likely to have problems keeping warm and are more likely to get infections
- you will reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), also known as "cot death".
Stopping smoking now will also help your baby later in life. Children whose parents smoke are more likely to suffer from asthma and other serious illnesses that may need hospital treatment.
If your partner or anyone else who lives with you smokes, their smoke can affect you and your baby before and after their birth. You may also find it more difficult to stop if someone around you smokes.
Secondhand smoke can also reduce your baby's birthweight and increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), also known as "cot death". Babies whose parents smoke are more likely to be admitted to hospital for bronchitis and pneumonia during their first year.
Dayne, who is now 14-years-old, was born through an emergency c-section after his heart rate was continuously dropping which saw him needing to be resuscitated – weighing just 4lb 15oz
She continued: "No one mentioned anything about the fact I smoked [while pregnant with Tiger-Lily] so I decided to just carry on throughout my second.
"It was the birth of my son that scared me into considering quitting smoking because I nearly lost him and now, I think my smoking is what played a big part in me needing an emergency c-section.
"The placenta had completely disintegrated."
After the trauma of the emergency c-section, Gemma gave up smoking and had two more children – Heidi, 10, and Ruby, 9.
The mum continued: "When I found out I was pregnant with Heidi, I started to cut down and I found it extremely difficult to quit but I suffered from severe morning sickness which helped me to completely stop smoking.
"The pregnancy was a lot easier and I felt better in myself; she was still a fairly small baby weighing just 5lb 12 but she had no complications.
"Ruby had a completely smoke free pregnancy and she weighed 6lb but she was born two weeks early because I had gestational diabetes; if they had let me go full term she would have been an average sized baby. She was the healthiest by far.
"I felt so much healthier throughout my last two pregnancies – I could breathe properly, my skin looked better, and my children were healthier."
I've been told that I shouldn't be allowed to be a mother but everyone makes mistakes whether they are big or small; smoking during pregnancy could have been a huge mistake.
What's more, Gemma has been criticised about her decision to smoke while pregnant – but insists she wouldn't have if she'd been explicitly told not to.
She said: "There is a lot more information about smoking now and midwives are more open about encouraging mums to quit; I wish I had that kind of information when I was first pregnant.
"I definitely wouldn't have smoked back then if I had the information available now.
"I've been told that I shouldn't be allowed to be a mother but everyone makes mistakes whether they are big or small; smoking during pregnancy could have been a huge mistake.
"There could have been bad implications but to say someone doesn't deserve to be a mother or is a bad mother is ignorant because smoking doesn't affect your parenting.
"My experience has taught me so much and had led me to encourage people not to smoking whilst pregnant because I have witnessed the damage it can cause first hand.
"It's important to talk about things like this otherwise people will still smoke whilst pregnant; I wish more people had put pressure on me when I was first pregnant but it wasn't as openly spoken about.
Although Gemma quit smoking while pregnant with her last two children, she has since picked up the habit again.
She added: "I didn't smoke for two years after I had had all the children but I started again after going through a bad breakup and suffering from some mental health issues.
"I'm not a fan of alcohol so smoking was a stress reliever for me.
"I am looking to give up again because I know it's not healthy and I would never advocate smoking in general let alone during pregnancy.
"If I could turn back time, I wouldn't smoke at all let alone whilst pregnant.
"I wish I could go back to when I was 13-years-old and refuse that first cigarette I was offered."
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