Smoking during pregnancy puts babies at risk of SIDS

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A new study by a team of British researchers has found a link between cot deaths and mothers who smoke.

The team from Bristol University's Institute of Child Life and Health, say that up to 90% of cot deaths in babies are directly linked to mothers who smoke during their pregnancies.

The Bristol team also say the risk increases with every hour babies are exposed to passive smoke after birth and while the number of cot deaths has fallen, those linked to smoking have risen.

Lead author Professor Peter Fleming, says many other studies have shown a clear link between smoking and cot death, but the Bristol team were interested in establishing the risk of smoking both before and after birth.

They say a baby exposed to smoke eight hours a day was eight times more likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) than a baby that was never exposed.

The researchers found that the proportion of babies who went on to die from SIDS who were born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy had risen from 57% to 86%.

The researchers have called on the government to ban expectant women from buying tobacco.

For the study the researchers examined the results of 21 studies relating to smoking and SIDS and found that 9 out of every 10 deaths are reported in babies whose mother's smoked during their pregnancy.

Experts say the evidence suggests smoking is a cause of SIDS, and if all parents stopped smoking tomorrow more than 60 per cent of SIDS deaths would be prevented.

This would mean a drop of SIDS deaths in the UK from around 300 a year to 120 a year.

Though smoking among pregnant women has fallen from 30% to 20% in the last 15 years the researchers suggest that public smoking bans possibly encourage more people to smoke at home.

The researchers believe the government must educate women about the harm that smoking can cause when they become pregnant; current advice states that smoking should only be reduced during a woman's pregnancy rather than stopped altogether.

Each year around 300 babies in Britain 2,500 in the United States between 1 and 4 months of age, die each year from SIDS cot death.

Those numbers have been considerably reduced with successful campaigns advocating laying babies on their backs to sleep.

The report is published in the journal Early Human Development.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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