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Smoking while you're pregnant exposes your baby to a range of toxic chemicals and increases the likelihood of serious complications such as stillbirth, low birth weight, and birth defects. That's why, ideally, if you smoke, or vape, you should quit smoking well before you become pregnant.
Sadly, because cigarettes are so addictive, giving up smoking during pregnancy can be a real struggle, but it is possible. The new study, published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association, offers hope for pregnant smokers.
Researchers analyzed the birth records of babies born to more than 25 million women. More than 2.6 million of the women smoked before getting pregnant, and a quarter of them quit during their pregnancies.
Here's what the study found:
- Women who quit smoking while pregnant were less likely to give birth prematurely compared to women who continued to smoke throughout pregnancy. That held true even for heavy smokers who quit.
- The earlier women quit smoking, the lower their baby's risk for preterm birth. For example, light-smoking white women in their mid-20s who quit smoking in the first trimester saw a 20 percent decrease in preterm birth risk. If they quit in the second trimester, the risk dropped by 9 percent. (Risk dropped for other races, age groups, and levels of smoking frequency too, but the percentage varied.)
The study relied on data provided by the mothers themselves, so it's possible that the smoking rates were underreported. The birth certificates also lacked information on some other issues that can impact preterm birth risk, such as alcohol use while pregnant.
According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC), 1 out of 5 moms smokes prior to becoming pregnant, and nearly 1 in 10 are still smoking in their third trimester.
If you're a pregnant smoker, kicking the habit is one of the biggest gifts you can give your baby. There are several options to help you quit smoking during pregnancy and various strategies for beating cigarette cravings. Check out BabyCenter's resource page on quitting smoking during pregnancy for more information and ideas.
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