Smoking increases risk of infant death by nearly 40 percent, doc - KCTV5

Smoking increases risk of infant death by nearly 40 percent, doctors say

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Experts say too many women in Kansas and Missouri are smoking during pregnancy, and it puts unborn babies at risk. (KCTV5) Experts say too many women in Kansas and Missouri are smoking during pregnancy, and it puts unborn babies at risk. (KCTV5)
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

Experts say too many women in Kansas and Missouri are smoking during pregnancy, and it puts unborn babies at risk.

According to doctors, when a pregnant mother has smoked, the vessels inside a baby’s brain dilate to try to increase the amount of oxygen that flows through the blood. Smoking can result in low birth weight, early delivery and even death.

University of Kansas Health System’s Dr. Carl Weiner said smoking increases the risk of infant death by about 40 percent.

“It’s associated with at least 5-percent of all babies that die in the first year of life,” said Weiner. “So that's a thousand extra babies per year that are dying in association with trouble from smoking.”

Weiner said the long-term effects on a child whose mother smoked during pregnancy include:

  • Problems with hormone regulation
  • Increased risk of lung diseases like asthma and bronchitis
  • ADHD
  • Behavioral issues
  • Psychiatric disorders

No mother wants this for their child, but smoking is a tough addiction to break.

According to research by the Centers for Disease Control, 8.4-percent of pregnant women smoke nationwide. The rate is higher in Kansas and Missouri, with 12-percent and 16.7-percent, respectively.

“Even if we have done a great job educating women and families as to the dangers of smoking, it doesn't make it any easier for an individual necessarily to quit,” said Weiner.

KU Medical Center researcher and assistant professor Taneisha Scheuermann is working to help. She recently received grant funding to develop a new text messaging support system.

She also encourages the use of programs like KanQuit, a counseling hotline with special assistance for pregnant women, and the Baby and Me Tobacco Free program in Wyandotte County.

“These programs provide group counseling and also provide incentives such as free diapers for reinforcing women who are able to do that challenging thing of staying quit,” said Scheuermann.

Scheuremann is tackling another big program; she said most women who quit smoking during pregnancy go back to it by the time their baby is a year old. She said women need to be encouraged to quit for the long haul.

“[Smoking] is the number one modifiable cause of death in the US. It's the number one thing that we have the power to change. If a woman quits smoking, she benefits herself, she benefits her family,” said Scheuremann.

Weiner said despite nicotine replacement therapies and smoking cessation counseling, the success rate for quitting is low. He said the best thing is to prevent people from picking up the habit at a young age.

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