Women who smoke during pregnancy are up to 6.3 times more likely to have babies with low birth weights who could be nearly 400g lighter than those delivered by non-smoking mothers, according to research released yesterday by the Taiwan Pediatric Association.
The research was jointly conducted by National Taiwan University (NTU) Hospital’s Neonatology Division and its College of Public Health, which randomly selected 21,248 postpartum women and newborns born in 2005 from 90 out of 369 townships across Taiwan.
They analyzed selected participants’ answers to an in-person questionnaire regarding theirs and their partners’ smoking history, as well as their babies’ birth weight, size and whether they were born at full term.
“The results showed that women who smoked before getting pregnant were 2.78 times more likely to have premature births than their non-smoking counterparts, while the risk increased to 3.58 times and 3.87 times if they continued to smoke in early and later trimesters of pregnancy respectively,” Far Eastern Memorial Hospital attending pediatrician Ko Ting-jung (柯婷蓉) told a press conference in Taipei.
Ko said expectant mothers are between 1.6 and 6.3 times more susceptible to having babies under 2.5kg if they have smoked before or during pregnancy, and the infants could weigh about 398g less if their mothers smoked more than 20 cigarettes per day in the early stages of gestation.
“In addition, a series of Taiwan Birth Panel Studies also suggest that the infants of women who are exposed to second-hand smoke before labor are more prone to impaired speech and impaired fine motor skills, as well as atopic dermatitis,” Ko said, urging soon-to-be mothers and fathers to cut down on smoking or to quit.
Taiwan Pediatric Association deputy secretary-general Yeh Kuo-wei (葉國偉) said that according to WHO statistics, more than 600,000 people die as a result of exposure to second-hand smoke per year nationwide, of whom 168,000, or 28 percent, are children.
“Another recent survey that polled about 1,700 children in Keelung found that up to 52.5 percent of them suffer from exposure to second-hand smoke,” Yeh said.
Yeh also highlighted “the often neglected, subtle health risks from ‘third-hand smoke,’” which refers to tobacco smoke residues that cling to hair, clothes, carpets, foods, furniture or drapes.
“Research shows that the level of nicotine that toddlers absorb from direct contact with tobacco smoke-contaminated furniture is 6.8 times higher than that from second-hand smoke,” Yeh said.
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