One in 14 pregnant women continue to smoke

According to a report released this week (28th February 2018), one in 14 women who have given birth in the United States has smoked during their pregnancy despite warnings regarding the harmful effects of the same. The report comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC’s) National Center for Health Statistics.

image Credit: Photographee.eu / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Photographee.eu / Shutterstock

The report finds that at least 7.2 percent of pregnant mothers smoke during their pregnancy and these rates vary across the different states. While West Virginia scored the highest at 25.1 percent pregnant mothers reporting they smoked any time during their pregnancy, California showed the minimum number of pregnant smokers at 1.6 percent. Some states are better than others in terms of smoking rates among pregnant women and have rates lower than the national average of 7.2 percent. These are 19 states including California, Texas, Utah, New Jersey, Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada, Connecticut, New York, and District of Columbia have rates of smoking below 5 percent among pregnant women. A further 31 states have a higher rate than the national average including West Virginia, Vermont, Kentucky, Missouri and Montana.

Patrick Drake, senior author of the report working at CDC's National Center for Health Statistics said that these numbers are show that women continue to smoke during their pregnancy despite knowing the risks associated with it. He explained that smoking rates among pregnant mothers vary according to several factors including age of the mother, race and ethnicity, level of education and region of residence.

Pregnant women between ages 20 and 24 years had the highest smoking rate at 10.7 percent while women aged 15 to 19 when pregnant had a smoking rate of 8.5 percent. The prevalence of smoking among women aged 25 to 29 years was 8.2 percent. Smoking was highest among non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native expectant mothers at 16.7 percent. Non Hispanic white women smoked at rates of 10.5 percent and 6 percent non-Hispanic black pregnant women were found to smoke. Only 1.8 percent Hispanic women and 0.6 percent non-Hispanic Asian women smoked during pregnancy. Drake said non-Hispanic white women were smoking twice as much compared to non-Hispanic black women during pregnancy and six times as much as Hispanic women. Women with high school education or a GED smoked most at 12.2 percent and those with less than high school education smoked at a frequency of 11.7 percent. With rising education levels the rates of smoking dropped to 7.9 percent among women with a college or an associate’s degree.

Despite these variations being explained he added that any amount of smoking during pregnancy is “too much”. The CDC emphasizes upon the risks of smoking to the unborn baby saying that it may cause premature births, low birth weight or growth retardation in the fetus, raise the risk of still births and also deaths of the baby due to Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Smoking can cause damage to the placenta and thus hamper the growth of the baby within the womb. Smoking among pregnant mothers can also cause the babies to be born with deformities such as a cleft lip or hare lip and a cleft palate.

In an earlier report from the CDC's Pregnancy Risk Assessment and Monitoring System in 2011, around 10 percent of US pregnant women reported to have smoked during their last trimester. However, among smokers, 55 percent also quit smoking during their pregnancy. This new report comes from the data provided in the birth certificates in the CDC’s National Vital Statistics System.

The present report may just be a tip of the proverbial iceberg feels some experts since it takes into account the self reports of smoking by the women. To understand the actual prevalence of smoking among pregnant mothers larger and detailed studies may be necessary. As of now this report is enough to ring a warning bell and strengthen the efforts to curb smoking among pregnant women write the authors of the report.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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