Effect of Smoking Reduction on Birth Weight

Quit Smoking – Add to Baby’s Birthweight

According to a new study by the Vermont Cancer Center in Burlington, reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke by at least nine per day after the first prenatal visit can add 100g or more to your baby’s weight.

The study, which involved 392 pregnant women, showed that an expectant mother’s risk of delivering an underweight baby increased with the number of cigarettes she smoked. Conversely, women who gave up cigarettes had the fewest low-birth-weight babies.

“Our study confirms the detrimental effect of smoking on birth weight,” said Roger H. Secker-Walker, M.D., director of health promotion research at the Vermont Cancer Center in Obstetrics & Gynecology. The study participants were asked how many cigarettes they smoked per day during their first prenatal visit and then at 36 weeks gestation. The women’s carbon monoxide level was measured through their breath, using a standard carbon monoxide monitor.

The study showed that by eliminating nine cigarettes a day, there was a decrease of eight parts per million in the amount of exhaled carbon monoxide. Then, using a simple regression equation, the researchers determined the effects of the number of cigarettes smoked per day on birth weight. So if a woman who smoked 13 cigarettes each day eliminated nine cigarettes, she was likely to give birth to a baby who weighed nearly the same as a non-smoker’s baby.

Dr. Secker-Walker said that the study could be used as a guide to determine what benefit mothers can expect based on how much they cut back on smoking. However, he added that the best thing to do is quit smoking altogether, like the 110 women in the study who quit smoking before their first visit or by the 36th week of their pregnancy because of the risks to the fetus.

According to nutritionist Alison Gamble, smoking just two cigarettes in succession during pregnancy reduces fetal chest breathing movements. It also restricts the blood supply to the fetus, limiting oxygen and nutrient delivery and waste removal. “Women who smoke tend to have poor iron status, causing even more oxygen deprivation in the fetus,” Gamble said. “Oxygen deprivation during the development of the fetus can cause damage to the central nervous system. Smoking also increases the risk of spontaneous abortion. Studies have also shown positive correlations between smoking mother’s newborn babies and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).”

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), this is critical to note since more than 14 million women in the U.S. aged 18 to 44 – the group encompassing women of child-bearing age – smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

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