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Pregnant? The Earlier You Quit Smoking, the Better

WEDNESDAY, April 24, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Quitting smoking during pregnancy reduces the risk of delivering preterm. And the earlier you stop, the better, a new study finds.

"Pregnancy can be a stressful time in a woman's life. And women who smoked prior to pregnancy may turn to smoking or continue to smoke as a way to mitigate this stress," lead author Samir Soneji said in a Dartmouth College news release.

"Thus, it is incumbent upon health care providers who care for pregnant women to have a renewed focus on smoking cessation," said Soneji, an associate professor at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in Lebanon, N.H.

Smoking during pregnancy can lead to low birth weight, delayed fetal development, preterm birth, infant death, and long-term developmental delays in children.

While the percentage of American women who begin pregnancy as smokers is falling, the proportion who quit during pregnancy has remained about the same since 2011, the researchers noted.

Investigators analyzed data on more than 25 million U.S. women, ages 25-29, who gave birth between 2011 and 2017.

Along with finding that quitting smoking was associated with reduced risk of preterm birth, the researchers found that timing mattered: Those who quit smoking at the start of their pregnancy had up to a 20% reduced risk of preterm birth.

However, the researchers found that only about 25% of women who smoked before pregnancy quit after conception. Also, about 50% of women who smoked during pregnancy had more than 10 cigarettes a day.

"Pregnancy is often a time when women have more frequent contact with the health care system, and this increased contact provides expectant mothers an opportunity to discuss their concerns about smoking, including their attempts to stop, and receive the support and resources they need to safely and successfully quit," Soneji said.

The study was published April 19 in the journal JAMA Network Open.

More information

The March of Dimes has more on smoking during pregnancy.

SOURCE: Dartmouth College, news release, April 19, 2019

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