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10 Percent of women still smoke while pregnant

Despite the numerous support options out there to help women quit smoking, some pregnant smokers are still not ready to kick the habit — and the ones who are suffering the most are the babies-to-be. Find out more about a new study that finds 10 percent of women still smoke while pregnant and how it puts newborns at risk for heart defects.

New study on newborn heart anomalies

In a recent study led by pediatric cardiologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital Patrick M. Sullivan, M.D., researchers examined whether or not smoking while pregnant was tied to children born with heart defects. Dr. Sullivan witnessed how children and their families suffered daily when battling heart disease. “I saw this research as an opportunity to identify what might be a preventable cause of congenital heart defects, and the hardship that comes with it,” he explains. And the results were telling — the medical team found a 50 to 70 percent increase in the likelihood that newborns of mothers who smoked during pregnancy would have anomalies of the heart valve.

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Smoking linked to babies with heart defects

While low birth weight is a commonly known adverse side effect of smoking while pregnant, researchers inspected hospital discharge records of babies born between 1989 and 2011 and report a strong correlation between pregnant smokers and babies with heart defects. Specifically, of the examined records of the 14,128 children born with heart defects and 62,274 children who were born without heart defects, the team found that youngsters born with anomalies of the right side of the heart and defects in the atrial septum were more likely to have been born to women who smoked during pregnancy. So, why aren’t more women snuffing out smoking once they’re with child?

Not quitting smoking during pregnancy

According to researchers, 10 percent of women giving birth — particularly younger women — reported smoking during pregnancy in recent years. “Ongoing cigarette use during pregnancy is a serious problem that increases the risk of many adverse outcomes in newborns,” stated Dr. Sullivan. “Our research provides strong support for the hypothesis that smoking while pregnant increases the risk of specific heart defects.” Kicking the habit at any point during your pregnancy is a healthier choice for both you and your pea in the pod, but it’s interesting to note that the study found that 1 to 2 percent of all heart defects could be pinpointed to maternal smoking during the first trimester. And, the older you are and the heavier you smoke, the higher the risk that your baby will be born with a heart defect. Women 35 years of age and older were also found to be less likely to light up while pregnant than their younger counterparts.

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Kicking the habit is hard, but being counted as one of the 10 percent of women who still smoke while pregnant is dangerous for both you and your baby-to-be. Talk with your medical provider about the best route for quitting smoking while pregnant and give your newborn the healthiest start possible.

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