Benefits of quitting smoking early in pregnancy

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It is widely known that smoking during pregnancy is harmful to the developing baby as well as to the health of the mother. However, last week a new study was published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) which clarified some of the health risks to the fetus.

The study, carried out by Dr Lesley McCowan and colleagues in New Zealand, assessed smoking behavior in 2504 first time preganant women, and grouped them as either non-smokers (didn’t smoke at all during the pregnancy, n=1992), stopped smokers (n=261) who quit smoking before week 15 of the pregnancy), and current smokers (n=251)

They found that women who quit smoking prior to week 15 of their pregnancy had similar birth outcomes to women who were non-smokers, and both of those groups had better birth outcomes than women who continued smoking.

For example, the rates of spontaneous preterm births were 4%, 4% and 10% respectively, and the rates of small for gestational age were 10%, 10% and 17%.. Overall, women who stopped smoking had higher rates of uncomplicated pregnancies than women who continued to smoke (62% v 44%).

It is well known that being born prematurely, and small for age is predictive of a host of other health and developmental challenges. Care for premature babies in the hospital’s premature baby unit can also affect bonding between mother and child and is extremely expensive.

So if you are a woman who smokes, and would like to have kids in the future, there are even greater benefits to quitting smoking now. Not only will it improve your own health (and pocket-book!), but it will make a substantial difference to the immediate health of your babies. This message is relevant to all women of childbearing age, and not just those who are currently pregnant. While it is a good thing to quit before week 15 of the pregnancy, not everyone can succeed in quitting at that sometimes stressful time. In the study being discussed, only about half of the smokers were able to quit, and in many studies far fewer pregnant smokers are able to quit. So far better to quit now, well in advance of a potential pregnancy.

I hope that some of the information on this site will help you to succeed in quitting.

This link will take you to the full research report:
http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/338/mar26_2/b1081
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About the Author


MA, MAppSci, PhD

Dr. Jonathan Foulds is an expert in the field of tobacco addiction.

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