According to the 2001 Surgeon General's Report on Women and Smoking, 1 out of 10 infant deaths could be prevented if maternal smoking were eliminated. Because of the dangers associated with tobacco exposure for mother and child during and after pregnancy, Healthy People 2010 has set forth in their objectives a goal of 99 percent of women to abstain from using cigarettes during pregnancy. Unfortunately, our communities have not quite reached this goal, but we have an opportunity to inform and reach out to young women in northwest Georgia to empower them to stop smoking especially during pregnancy.
Women who smoke tend to have more difficulty getting pregnant. They have a 30 percent higher risk of being infertile. Once they do become pregnant, there is a greater risk to their infant for poor outcomes during pregnancy and even through adulthood:
* Twice as likely to deliver prematurely;
* Born with low birth weight and height-increasing risk of illness and disease;
* May experience withdrawal symptoms similar to babies born to mothers who use illicit drugs;
* Higher rate of difficulty with language, reading, and vocabulary in children exposed;
* Increased risk of diabetes as adults;
* Greater risk of behavioral issues including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); and
* Even associated with increased rate of delinquency and criminal behavior into adulthood.
It has also been discovered that pregnant women who are exposed to secondhand smoke share similar risks. They have a 20 percent increased chance of having a baby with low birth weight compared to women who are not exposed to second-hand smoke while pregnant. Their babies are at risk for asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, and middle ear infections. The most life threatening health risk to infants from second-hand smoke is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Babies exposed to second-hand smoke are three times more likely to die from SIDS compared to babies without tobacco smoke exposure.
Women who smoke and are considering becoming pregnant, or who are pregnant, or who have children are recommended to stop smoking for their health and their baby's health. Tobacco cessation counseling is the safest method for quitting but a woman should speak with her health provider about the various methods available to assist in stopping tobacco use. In the state of Georgia, anyone can call 1-877-270-STOP for free assistance in quitting tobacco. Remember to reach out for help.
Dr. Saria Saccocio
Dr. Saccocio, a nationally recognized anti-smoking advocate, is a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians' Tobaco Cessation Advisory Committee and a "Tar Wars" Star Award winner in Georgia and a "Tar Wars" Champion in Florida. This letter was sent by Logan Boss, public information officer, Northwest Georgia Public Health.