Pregnant and smoking: Little change over 10 years

smokingEfforts to curb tobacco use among females before and during pregnancy haven’t been very effective, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But those efforts have had some success in reducing the number of women who smoke after pregnancy.

Reducing the number of young women who smoke has long been a national health priority because smoking can lead to a number of health problems—such as difficulty becoming pregnant in the first place; birth defects in babies whose moms were smoking around the time of conception; complications during pregnancy; premature birth or stillbirth; low birth weight; and, after delivery, babies dying from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

About the study

The study was based on 2000–2010 data from the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS), a surveillance project of CDC and state health departments that began in 1987. PRAMS collects information on mothers’ behaviors and experiences before, during and after pregnancy.

At each of 40 participating PRAMS sites, anywhere from 100 to 300 new mothers completed questionnaires about their smoking habits three months before becoming pregnant, during the last three months of pregnancy and after delivery. Those who smoked before pregnancy also answered questions about their efforts to quit before their last trimester.

The current study involved 444,614 women at its start, although researchers eliminated some cases during analysis because of incomplete data.

Among the study’s findings:

  • Smoking before pregnancy. Overall, 23 percent of females smoked in the three months before pregnancy in 2000, compared to 23.2 percent in 2010. Only two sites—New York City and Utah—met the national goal of reducing this number to 14 percent.
  • Smoking during pregnancy. This number dropped very slightly, from an overall 13.3 percent in 2000 to 12.3 percent in 2010.
  • Smoking after pregnancy. Fewer new moms smoked after pregnancy in 2010 compared to 2000, with rates dropping from 18.6 percent to 17.2 percent.
  • Quitting smoking during pregnancy. There was a significant increase in the number of women who quit smoking before their third trimester of pregnancy, jumping from 43.2 percent in 2000 to 54.3 percent in 2010.


The take-home message
Prenatal smoking is one of the most common preventable causes of infant disease and death, but little progress has been made in convincing females to quit before becoming pregnant.If you smoke, talk to your doctor about quitting—especially if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. You can find a list of national organizations that also are ready to help you drop the habit here.

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