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Where There's Smoke: Effects of Smoking on Pregnancy


There are many ways that a woman can increase the likelihood of having a healthy pregnancy and delivery. One lifestyle change that can have a significant impact on the developing baby is cessation of smoking.



How Common is Cigarette Smoking During Pregnancy?


A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in 14 women who gave birth in the United States smoked cigarettes during her pregnancy. The study found that women ages 20-24 were most likely to smoke during pregnancy. Additionally, education played a role. Just over 12 percent of women with a high school diploma or GED smoked during pregnancy, while only 1 percent of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher smoked while pregnant.


What Are the Impacts of Smoking on Pregnancy?


Cigarette smoking can impact the health of an unborn baby, including damaging the tissue of the lungs and brain. Additional risk factors of smoking are low birth weight and premature birth. Some studies indicate a correlation between prenatal exposure to nicotine and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). There is evidence indicating that even maternal exposure to secondhand smoking can impact the health of the baby.


Why Do Some Women Continue to Smoke While Pregnant?


It is well-established that cigarette smoking is addictive. Smokers can have both a psychological and physiological dependence, and this makes quitting even more difficult. In some cases, women report that they continue to smoke since they did not notice health effects during a prior pregnancy.


What Can I Do as a Pregnant Smoker?


It is important to honestly discuss your situation with your provider. Often, out of fear or shame, women minimize the extent of cigarette consumption. Your provider can provide appropriate options to assist in smoking cessation.

Takeaway Message:

Smoking can have damaging effects on a developing baby. It is important that pregnant women discuss smoking cessation with their providers to optimize pregnancy outcome.

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