Quitting Smoking Before Pregnancy Could Save Babies' Lives

Jun 09, 2010 By Katherine Kahn

If more women quit smoking before they became pregnant, it would save infant lives, concludes a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Despite a decline over the past decade in the number of women who smoke during pregnancy, is still a major cause of newborn deaths, early births and babies born with low birth weight.

“We know about half of women quit when they find out that they are pregnant, but a lot of women are still smoking during pregnancy,” said Patricia Dietz, DrPh, lead study investigator.

The study appears online and in the July issue of the .

Dietz and co-investigators examined data from the US Linked Birth/Infant Death Data Set, which included all 3.3 million births of single babies that occurred in the United States (with the exception of California) during 2002. About 11.5 percent of babies, or 386,000, had mothers who smoked during pregnancy.

Researchers determined that prenatal smoking caused 5 percent to 8 percent of premature births and 13 percent to 19 percent of cases of low birth weight in babies carried to full term. Of infants who died, 5 percent to 7 percent of preterm-related deaths and 23 percent to 34 percent of deaths caused by sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) might have been preventable if the mother had not smoked before pregnancy.

In addition, the researchers wrote that if all women quit smoking during pregnancy, it could cut health care costs by about $232 million every year — and improve overall health for both mothers and children.

“The percentage of SIDS deaths that might be avoided with is a significant number,” said Diane Ashton, M.D., deputy medical director of the March of Dimes. “For women who smoke and are considering pregnancy, we strongly recommend that they get preconception counseling for smoking cessation.”

Given these sobering statistics, why do some women continue to smoke during pregnancy?

“Studies have shown that these women may be dealing with a lot of stress, such as economic hardship, or they might be dealing with depression or other mental health issues,” Dietz said. “Most of them are living with other smokers that make it difficult to quit. They may be living in communities where it’s acceptable to smoke — where everyone is smoking. So it’s really complex.”

“This is an addiction,” Ashton said. “If pregnancy could cure addiction then none of these issues would be a problem. During , women tend to be a little more highly motivated to address their addictions, but a lot of it depends on the level of readiness of the individual.”

Explore further: With kids in school, parents can work out

More information: Dietz PM, et al. Infant morbidity and mortality attributable to prenatal smoking in the US. Am J Prev Med 39(1), 2010.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Genes: An extra hurdle to quitting smoking during pregnancy?

May 15, 2009

Researchers from the Peninsula Medical School and the University of Bristol, using data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children and the Exeter Family Study of Childhood Health, have identified a common genetic ...

Recommended for you

With kids in school, parents can work out

7 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Back-to-school time provides an opportunity for parents to develop an exercise plan that fits into the family schedules, an expert suggests.

Obama offers new accommodations on birth control

11 hours ago

The Obama administration will offer a new accommodation to religious nonprofits that object to covering birth control for their employees. The measure allows those groups to notify the government, rather than their insurance ...

Use a rule of thumb to control how much you drink

12 hours ago

Sticking to a general rule of pouring just a half glass of wine limits the likelihood of overconsumption, even for men with a higher body mass index. That's the finding of a new Iowa State and Cornell University ...

User comments : 0