We can’t say “QUIT” enough. We must do more to educate women about the dangers of smoking while pregnant—to them and their babies. Also, we must provide women with the resources to stop smoking during their pregnancies. The good news is data from the National Center for Health Statistics show fewer women are smoking during pregnancy; prevalence decreased from 9.2 percent in 2010 to 6.9 percent in 2017. For the first time in 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) obtained national estimates of tobacco use before and during pregnancy. Those estimates showed one in 14 women who gave birth in the United States reported smoking during pregnancy, and they’re highest among minority women.
Black women made up 6 percent of those who smoked during pregnancy. American Indian and Alaska Native women smoked the most while pregnant, making up 16.7 percent. Pregnant Black and Hispanic women have a greater risk of delivering infants with low birth weight compared to white women, in part due to smoking during pregnancy (Moore & Zaccaro, 2000; Ngui, Cortright, & Blair, 2009; Nkansah-Amankra, 2010). Additionally, there are more infant deaths and low-birth weight babies born to American Indian and Alaska Native women than other ethnicities (England et al., 2012; Salihu et al., 2003).
The negative outcomes of smoking while pregnant are well-documented—in addition to the stress on a woman’s body, it can also increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion, placental abruption in which the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus before birth, placenta previa where the placenta completely or partially covers the opening of the uterus, and even infertility (Cnattingius, 2004). Mothers who smoke are also more likely to deliver their babies early. Preterm delivery is a leading cause of death, disability, and disease among newborns.
Babies born to mothers who smoked while pregnant or are exposed to secondhand smoke after birth have weaker lungs than other babies, which increases the risk for many health problems. These babies may have a low-birth weight, leading to underdeveloped limbs and organs. And both babies whose mothers smoke while pregnant and babies who are exposed to secondhand smoke after birth are more likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) than babies who are not exposed to cigarette smoke.
The Minority Research Center (MRC) at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff is providing grant funding to assist researchers in studying tobacco use in minority pregnant women and the best methods to help women stop smoking, especially during pregnancy. Grant funding is available to investigators from Arkansas not-for-profit organizations, including but not limited to colleges, universities, hospitals, laboratories, research institutions, community-based organizations, voluntary health agencies, health maintenance organizations, and other tobacco control groups.
These awards will assist researchers in gathering preliminary data or demonstrating proof of principle for tobacco-related research with the potential for high impact among minority populations in Arkansas.
Quitting is hard. The CDC’s guide to quit smoking recommends understanding why you want to quit so you can create a plan that can be shared with loved ones in order for them to support you on your journey. Arkansans can call Be Well Arkansas at 1-833-283-Well (9355) for cessation resources.