Experts have long known that smoking during pregnancy puts both mom and baby at risk for complications, but new research sheds more light on just how dangerous it can be.
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A recent study suggests that 22% of sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUIDs) in the United States may be attributed to maternal smoking during pregnancy. The study analyzed more than 20 million live births and 19,000 SUIDs.
Any amount of smoking during pregnancy – even one cigarette – doubles the risk of SUID, the study found. For mothers who smoked 1 to 20 cigarettes per day, each additional cigarette increased the chance of SUID by 0.07 times.
SUID includes sudden death syndrome, accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed, and other deaths of babies under 1 year old by an unknown cause.
Although the risk of smoking during pregnancy seems fairly well acknowledged, about 7% of pregnant women reportedly smoke during their pregnancy.
“Quitting smoking results in the greatest reduction in SUID risk, but every cigarette that can be reduced counts,” OB/GYN Rebecca Starck, MD, says.
Plan ahead when quitting
When trying to quit, women should change the environment that puts them at risk, recognize their triggers (whether they’re stress, habit or social triggers) and make sure their loved ones are aware and supportive of their decision to quit, Dr. Starck says.
“I tell them that once they’ve given up smoking, they cannot ‘just have one’ because they will find that suddenly they are back to smoking a pack per day,” she adds.
Some women may benefit from additional counseling or other interventions. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recommends the use of nicotine replacement therapies, under close supervision of a physician, if women are unable to quit on their own or with counseling. Bupropion is also used to help with smoking cessation and is safe in pregnancy, Dr. Starck says.
Additional resources that may help women stay motivated and find support as they attempt to quit smoking include: