Large study highlights dangers of smoking during pregnancy

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Key points to remember

  • Researchers found that people who smoked during pregnancy were more likely to have low birth weight babies, have preterm labor, and experience premature rupture of membranes.
  • The risks go beyond birth: The study suggests that childhood neurological disorders may also be associated with smoking during pregnancy.
  • Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do to keep your baby healthy.

Research has long shown that smoking during pregnancy can dramatically increase the risk of birth defects.A new study analyzing the results of more than 9 million participants provides further evidence of the side effects associated with smoking during pregnancy.

The study, published in the Journal of Perinatal Medicine, examined the birth outcomes of more than 400,000 smokers and 8.6 million non-smokers in the United States between 2004 and 2014.

Researchers found that pregnant women who smoked had a 130% increased risk of having a baby that was too small for their developmental stage, which increased the risk of bowel and urinary disorders, lung problems, and neurological disorders during the process. ‘childhood.

They also found a 40% increased risk of premature birth and a 50% increased risk of rupture of the amniotic sac surrounding the fetus before labor begins.

“Smoking is also associated with birth defects and has a negative impact on fetal neurocognitive development,” Ido Feferkorn, MD, a researcher at the McGill University Health Center and co-author of the study, told Verywell. “Regarding maternal complications, an increased risk of wound complications and the need for hysterectomy in smokers has been noted. ”

What is hysterectomy

A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of a uterus. In some cases, other reproductive organs like the ovaries and cervix may also be removed during this procedure.

While many studies have shown that smoking during pregnancy can lead to a damaged placenta, an undernourished baby, and even stillbirth, this new research looked at complications that were only studied in smaller samples.

“The study is impressive because of its size,” Caitlin Dunne, MD, fertility specialist and co-director of the Pacific Center for Reproductive Medicine (PCRM) told Verywell. “In a practical sense, this data is important for physicians because we know more about what to look out for when caring for pregnant patients.”

Smoking slightly reduces some risks, but that doesn’t mean you should start

Interestingly, researchers found that smokers had reduced rates of preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and liver or kidney damage. If left untreated, preeclampsia can lead to premature births or the need for a cesarean section.

But the researchers warned that the lower rate of preeclampsia may simply be linked to lower birth weight babies among smokers.

The risks associated with smoking during pregnancy still far outweigh the “benefits,” says Dunne.

“I must stress that this does not not mean the authors think smoking is beneficial, ”she says. “These results may simply be the consequence of a very large database study without having detailed information about the background of each pregnancy.”

Dunne also points out that large association studies like this don’t necessarily imply a causal link, but they can help guide future research that will focus on the finer details of cause and effect. .

Both Feferkorn and Dunne say that while it is undeniably difficult to quit smoking, it is an essential step in ensuring the well-being of your baby.

“I tell my patients: do your best to quit smoking or vaping. I know it is difficult to quit smoking and that it often takes many attempts to quit. Don’t be too hard on yourself, keep trying, ”says Dunne. “Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for a baby’s health. It’s worth it.

What it means for you

Smoking during pregnancy poses a host of serious risks to the short and long term health of your baby as well as yours. Although it is difficult to quit smoking, it is one of the best things you can do to protect your baby’s health if you get pregnant.

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