Smoking Still a Threat to Babies' Health

Premier Health Now

Despite the health risks to mother and baby, 1 of every 14 pregnant women in the U.S. – about 7.2 percent – smoked cigarettes in 2016, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Ohio and 30 other states have a smoking-while-pregnant rate above this national average. Ohio’s rate is twice that: 14.4 percent.

How could this be? Premier Health Now asked Samantha Wiegand, MD, maternal-fetal medicine specialist with Perinatal Partners.

She’s not certain. But she adds, “I inquire from every patient I see as to whether or not they’re smoking and I educate them about the ill effects.” The primary risks – preterm delivery and low birthweight – can harm children’s health for life. And smoking during pregnancy puts babies at risk for certain birth defects.

“If a woman has a smoker in her home, I encourage that they smoke outside, or more importantly, quit.” The toxins in secondhand smoke also raise the risk of health complications – including asthma and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) – in children after delivery.

The difficulty of quitting smoking can be compounded when others in the home smoke, Dr. Wiegand says. “It’s really a family effort. Part of the ability to quit is getting buy-in from the entire family.

“Certainly, I want pregnant women to quit smoking, but I want everyone to quit smoking.”

Dr. Wiegand recommends smoking cessation programs that involve therapy aided by medication or nicotine replacement, such as gum or patches. These programs have been proven more effective than therapy alone. 

She adds that telephone counseling is available through 1-800-QUIT-NOW.