A mum who smoked 10 cigarettes a day while pregnant says she regrets it after her first two children were born weighing less than six pounds and her placenta failed during her second pregnancy.
Gemma Tucker, 40, from Bath, Somerset, started smoking when she was just 13 and did not give up seven years later when she fell pregnant at 20.
Her first child, Tiger-Lily, who is now 19, was born weighing 5lb 11, and Gemma decided to carry on smoking when she was pregnant with her second child six years later.
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.
After the trauma of undergoing an emergency C-section, Gemma decided to give up smoking and went on to have two more children – Heidi, 10, and Ruby, 9.
Now, Gemma admits to “regretting” smoking throughout her first two pregnancies and wants to raise awareness for the risks involved.
She said: “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.
“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, she was a bit on the small side but other than that she was healthy and no one mentioned anything about the fact I smoked 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.
“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.
“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”.
Gemma has received some backlash for admitting to smoking throughout her first two pregnancies but wants to use her experience to raise awareness for the damage it can cause to children.
She added: “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.
“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.
Despite quitting while pregnant with her last two children, Gemma has started smoking again.
She explained: “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”.