Smoking When Pregnant Doubles Infant Death Risk Research Says

New research has confirmed that smoking before and during pregnancy contributes dramatically to the risk of an infant dying before their first birthday.

With over 20 million births analysed in the study, the data is harsh motivation for those who haven’t quit, to butt out the fags, right now.

In short, just one cigarette a day doubles the risk of a sudden unexpected infant death (SUID) up to one year of age. The more you smoke, the higher the risk becomes. 

Smoking when pregnant? More smokes equals more risk 

According to the research published in Pediatrics, any amount of smoking during pregnancy doubles the risk of an infant dying from SUID. 

For women who smoked an average of 1-20 cigarettes a day, the odds of SUID increased by 0.07 with every additional cigarette smoked.

22% of sudden unexplained infant deaths could be prevented 

It’s confronting statistic to read but if no women smoked during pregnancy, head researcher Anderson and her co-authors estimate that 800 of the approximately 3,700 deaths from SUID every year could be prevented.

This would lower the current American SUID rates by 22%.

If you can’t quit, cutting down helps 

It’s a common problem in smokers that many simply can not quit when pregnant. Whilst it’s obviously better not to smoke at all the data does show that cutting down does make a difference.

Compared to the over half of pregnant smokers who did not reduce their smoking during pregnancy, women who reduced cigarette consumption by the third trimester saw a 12% decrease in SUID risk.

Women who successfully quit smoking in full was associated with a 23% reduction in risk.

Expect a new public health campaign educating about smoking when pregnant 

“With this information, doctors can better counsel pregnant women about their smoking habits, knowing that the number of cigarettes smoked daily during pregnancy significantly impacts the risk for SUID,” said Dr Anderson.

Of course the aim of the campaign will be to educate as many women as possible. The more women that understand the data and take action to quit – the more SUID incidences that can be prevented.

Thinking of falling pregnant? Stop smoking now! 

“The most important takeaway is for women to understand that quitting smoking before and during pregnancy by far results in the greatest reduction in SUID risk,” Anderson said.

For pregnant women unable to quit entirely, every cigarette they can eliminate will reduce the odds of their child dying suddenly and unexpectedly from SUID.

This research was a collaboration between the Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Microsoft data scientists who created computer models to analyse the 20 million births that were studied. For more information on the study you can see it here. 

If you need help quitting smoking please speak to your health provider or see the government websites for more information.

If you’re thinking of conceiving why not also check out Fertility Foods to help you put your healthiest baby making self in the game!

Avatar of Victoria Louis

Mother-of-two. Tea lover. Lego Ninja. Expert in carpet Play Dough extraction. Victoria Louis is a 30-something writer based in Sydney, NSW. A former marketing manager who loves to laugh there’s no topic she won’t explore. Victoria is full of opinion, big on kindness and believes the day is always better with a dash of lipstick.

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