A report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that about 1 out of fourteen pregnant women, who gave birth in the U.S. during 2016, smoked cigarettes during their pregnancies. The researchers found that the highest prevalence was in West Virginia.
The study explains that the mothers knew the risks. However, they did not mind and kept smoking – according to a statement made by Patrick Drake, the senior author of the report and demographer at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.
The results showed that 7.2% of all the mothers smoked. Nevertheless, the percentage fluctuated drastically from one state to another. For instance, the lower prevalence of smoking was reported in California, where only 1.6% of the pregnant women smoked.
Smoking during pregnancy
The chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Providence Hospital in Southfield, Michigan, Dr. Robert Welch, is known for his incredible work during high-risk pregnancies. There is one particular issue that worries the him. As he claims, he fears about the women who can’t quit smoking, especially during their pregnancies:
“Smoking cigarettes is probably the No. 1 cause of adverse outcomes for babies,” Dr. Welch stated.
Considering he has several years of experience, he explains that he has seen the complications that smoking brings to an infant and his mother as well. Babies could be born prematurely – making them smaller than usual -, or even die before they can even be born at all.
He also thinks that babies would be born healthier if pregnant smokers could somehow swap their dangerous habit for severe diseases, like diabetes or high blood pressure. This way, he could control those diseases and what they cause during the pregnancy with medications.
According to him, babies harmed by cigarettes are practically incurable.
The data found in the recent report helped scientists to note that the prevalence of smoking during pregnancy was lower in in 19 states that nationwide. They each had an incidence of less than 5%, a number remarkably lower than the national 7.2 %.
Arizona, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Texas and Washington D.C. were included among the lowest.
31 states showed the highest rates, but the highest of them all was West Virginia – followed by Kentucky, Montana, Vermont, and Missouri.
“Women in West Virginia smoked during pregnancy more than five times as often as women in the states with the lowest prevalence,” said Mr. Drake.
Women between 20 to 24 years old had the highest rates of smoking, with a percentage of 10.7%. While women from 15 to 19 years old had 8.5%, and the ones ranging from 25 to 29 presented 8.2%.
Non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native women presented the highest frequency in terms of race, with a peak of 16.7%. Non-Hispanic white women followed them with 10.5%.
Non-Hispanic black women were at 6%, and lastly, Hispanic women at 1.8%, and non-Hispanic Asian women at 0.6%.
Education was also a factor that created fluctuations. The researchers estimated that women with a high school diploma or GED had the highest rates, with a total of 12.2%. They also found that the more studies the women had, the less frequent they smoked.
We need to raise awareness
Dr. Haywood Brown, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University School of Medicine, claims that the report did not surprise him at all. According to him, West Virginia and Kentucky have been the states with the highest rates of smoking in almost every study.
“We still need very aggressive education campaigns in high-smoking-prevalence states, particularly in where there’s rural access-to-care issues. We still have a serious issue with infant mortality — prematurity and infant mortality are clearly linked to cigarette smoking, as is low birth weight — and when you begin to explain these things to patients, it really does appear to make a difference to them,” said Dr. Brown.
Parents need to know that a shortage of oxygen can have a disastrous effect on the baby’s growth and development. Smoking during pregnancy is thought to double the chances of having an early-born baby, or a baby that could weigh less than five pounds and-a-half at birth.
Even just a couple of cigarettes would significantly stiffen the blood vessels, and eventually lead the baby to respiratory issues, such as asthma. This could triple the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
The baby could be prone to congenital heart diseases as well, and even develop learning disorders, behavioral problems, and a relatively low IQ.
Quitting the habit is the first suggestion. However, doctors understand that giving up the habit alone is not easy, so pulling the nicotine straight away could overwhelm the pregnant woman.
The researchers suggested to these women to seek for proper help.