Fertility and pregnancy * Quit smoking

Pregnant smokers urged to give up before 15 week "deadline"

Smoking during pregnancy increases risk of premature birth and small babies Smoking during pregnancy increases risk of premature birth and small babies

Women who stop smoking before week 15 of pregnancy cut their risk of spontaneous premature birth and having small babies to the same as non-smokers, according to research published today in the online versions of the British Medical Journal.

Women who do not quit by 15 weeks, are three times more likely to give birth prematurely, and twice as likely to have small babies compared with women who have stopped smoking.

Scientists surveyed over 2,500 pregnant women participating in the SCOPE study in Australia and New Zealand at 15 weeks into their pregnancy. The volunteers were divided into three groups: non smoker, stopped smoker and current smoker. The ‘stopped smoker' group all gave up before 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The researchers found that there were no differences between the rates of premature birth between the stopped smokers group and the non-smokers, but current smokers had much higher risk. Similar results were discovered for expected baby size. However an important finding was that women who stopped smoking were not more stressed than women who continued to smoke.

Whilst smoking in pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, premature birth, small babies, stillbirth and neonatal death, the authors pointed out that this study was the first to show that stopping smoking early on in pregnancy erduces the risks of small babies and premature births.

Lead resercher, Dr Lesley McCowan at the University of Auckland, says that maternity care providers need to emphasise to women the major benefits of giving up smoking before 15 weeks in pregnancy with the goal of becoming smoke free as early in pregnancy as possible.

"The data suggest that the adverse effects of smoking on these late pregnancy outcomes may be largely reversible if smoking is ceased early in pregnancy, offering an important incentive for pregnant women who smoke to become smoke-free early in pregnancy."

This article was published on Mon 30 March 2009

Image © Anatoly Tiplyashin - Fotolia.com

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