In the UK, two depressing statistics are: one, that about 25 per cent of the population are smokers and two, that young girls are overtaking boys on the uptake of smoking. All this means that smoking is a major issue in pregnancy and childbirth. OK, the rate overall is falling (in 1974, 41% of women in UK smoked) but it is still depressingly high.
These are general facts in the public arena: that smoking is likely to cause fetal growth restriction in the womb (with all the spin-off consequences of this), that the baby of a smoking mother (or father) is more prone to cot death and that the child is several times more likely to suffer from glue-ear.
There are other less well-known facts such as the increase in the likelihood of preterm labour and fetal death in the womb.
However independently minded a prospective mother might be, she will in most cases concede that pregnancy does import an added responsibility on her. This is the well-being of another person. As such, pregnancy quite often turns out to be the time when the mother faces up to her lifestyle and examines whether she should continue smoking or not. Many women find this to be that elusive impetus they needed to quit smoking.
And alcohol ...
The effects of alcohol on pregnancy are quite different from those of smoking. There is no doubt that alcohol in moderation is safe in pregnancy. However, heavy and sustained drinking in pregnancy has a potential for serious adverse effects, which may include a profoundly disabled child.
The issue of alcohol use and abuse is a broad one and is not confined to the narrow question of whether the baby will be affected or not. There are other relevant facts: that an alcohol-dependent mother is more prone to physical trauma and life-threatening infections such as Hepatitis B, HIV etc. There are also other ramifications. - all laid bare in this chapter.
Cigarette-smoking and alcohol abuse can never be good for the pregnancy: that much universally accepted.
What is probably more important is the fact that there is no room for indifference, either..