Pregnant Women Often Stamp Out Claims They Smoke

Filed under: Pregnancy Health, Research Reveals

pregnant smoking picture

Smoking for two? Credit: Getty Images



How do we say "she doth protest too loudly?" Next time you see a pregnant women dousing herself in perfume, stomping her feet and insisting that she does not smoke, even though she reeks of cigarette butts, trust your gut: She's lying.

One in four moms-to-be who smoke while they are pregnant, deny it, according to a study published in Reuters Health. This has significant implications, because smoking by moms-to-be is one of the most common preventable causes of illness and death among infants, says Patricia Dietz, a researcher for the division of reproductive health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to Reuters.

Though the numbers are most likely even larger especially for younger women in their 20s (some are better than others at being sneaky,) researchers studied pregnant and non-pregnant smokers aged 20 to 44 to see who would and wouldn't fess up on a health questionnaire, Reuters reports.

They zeroed in on the deception by taking blood samples from the women to measure levels of cotinine -- a byproduct of nicotine that serves as a marker of exposure to tobacco smoke, according to Reuters. Their analysis included 994 pregnant women and 3,203 non-pregnant women.

Overall, 13 percent of pregnant women and 30 percent of non-pregnant women were active cigarette smokers. The pregnant smokers smoked an average of 11 cigarettes a day, while the non-pregnant smokers averaged close to 14 cigarettes a day, Reuters reports.

But, more pregnant than non-pregnant women smokers failed to disclose their habit -- 23 percent versus nine percent -- and were identified by their cotinine concentrations, the report states.

For a variety of reasons, such as the fact that pregnant women's bodies break down cotinine faster, the researchers think the results "likely underestimate" the true number of pregnant women who smoke and don't say so, according to Reuters.

Among both pregnant and non-pregnant smokers, those most likely to keep this information to themselves were women aged 20 to 24, as well as those with Medicaid or other source of government-funded health insurance and those with less than a high school education, Reuters reports.

Dietz and her colleagues say these findings could have significant implications for researchers trying to study the effects of smoking on developing babies, especially if one in four pregnant smoking women is denying her habit, they report in the American Journal of Epidemiology. And the seriousness of smoking while pregnant needs to be addressed, she adds in Reuters.

In another related report, the CDC says on its website that smoking while pregnant causes myriad complications for mom and baby, including a higher risk of miscarriage.

The CDC also reports that smoking causes damage to the placenta, the source of the baby's nutrition and oxygen during pregnancy, and can cause babies to be born early. What's more, it's also one of the risk factors of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), the CDC reports.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.