Smoking pregnant women at risk of delivering stillbirths, miscarriage and premature birth

A study has established that pregnant women who smoke (tobacco) are at a greater risk of delivering stillbirths, premature births and/or miscarriage while passive smokers (exposure of the non-smoking mother to second-hand smoke) run the risk of harming the fetus.

Kenyan Consultant Pediatrician, Epidemiologist and Researcher, Dr. Kariuki Michael, made the revelation at the Third Edition of Harm Reduction Exchange 2023 Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, on October 19, 2023.

The was held under the theme: “Amplifying the Voice of Harm Reduction Advocacy across Africa” and it attracted participants from many African countries, including Togo, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, Botswana, eSwatini and Kenya, as host, among others.

Kariuki said 53 percent of women who smoke daily continue to smoke daily during pregnancy, adding that their desire to stop encounters barriers such continued smoking among social networks, lack of access to quit-smoking services, emotional stress (e.g., intimate partner violence), pregnancy-related depression and increased metabolism of nicotine during pregnancy may not allow smoking cessation to be achieved in all pregnant women who smoke.

Dr Kariuki presented the findings of the study at the Third Harm Reduction Exchange Conference in Nairobi, Kenya

Kariuki, who is also the founder member of the Harm Reduction Society of Kenya, warned that smoking mothers run the risk of ear infections, respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia and bronchitis, increased risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), among others.

On effects of smoking on babies, the pediatrician said tobacco smoke exposure increases asthma prevalence and severity where it increases the risk of being overweight in childhood.

“Tobacco smoke exposure increases the risk of learning and neurobehavioral problems. Tobacco smoke exposure of children leads to findings of preclinical atherosclerosis. Tobacco smoke exposure increases the risk of childhood cancers,” he said.

Kariuki advised pregnant women to switch to noncombustible nicotine sources such as NRT to reduce smoking-related harm.

He cited the United Kingdom (UK) Stop Smoking Services, which do not discourage use of e-cigarettes during pregnancy and promote them as a safer alternative to smoking tobacco.

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