WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., JAN. 17, 2014 – A new report from the U.S. Surgeon General confirms that smoking during pregnancy causes babies to be born with cleft lip and cleft palate.
“We now have confirmation that smoking during pregnancy can damage the health of both mothers and babies. By quitting smoking before or during pregnancy, a woman will not only improve her own health; she may save her baby from being born too small and with a serious, disfiguring birth defect,” said Edward R. B. McCabe, MD, March of Dimes Chief Medical Officer. “Smoking during pregnancy exposes the baby to dangerous chemicals such as nicotine, carbon monoxide, and tar. These chemicals can reduce how much oxygen the baby gets, affecting the baby’s growth and development.”
“The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress,” was released by the Surgeon General today in honor of the landmark 1963 report that documented the death and disease caused by smoking.
The report also stated that each year about 1,000 infant deaths can be attributed to smoking. Of those, about 40 percent are classified as sudden infant death syndrome, the unexplained death of a baby under a year old while sleeping.
More than 7,000 babies are born in the U.S. each year born with an oral cleft birth defect and smoking increases the risk by 30 to 50 percent; this increased risk can be prevented by quitting smoking. About 23 percent of women smoke during pregnancy.
There are two types of oral cleft defects, a cleft lip, in which a baby’s upper lip doesn’t form completely and has an opening in it; and a cleft palate, in which the roof of the mouth doesn’t form completely and has an opening in it. Both cause feeding problems, and may lead to ear infections, hearing problems, difficulty speaking, and dental problems.
In addition to oral cleft defects, smoking during pregnancy is known to contribute to preterm birth and stillbirth.
March of Dimes chapters nationwide fund quit smoking programs for women, and you can learn more from the chapter in your area. The March of Dimes also has information for women about quitting smoking on its website at: http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/smoking-during-pregnancy.aspx
Tips to help quit include:
- Write down your reasons for quitting. Look at the list when you are tempted to smoke.
- Choose a “quit day.” On that day, throw away all your cigarettes or cigars, lighters and ashtrays.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Keep your hands busy using a small stress ball or doing some needlework.
- Keep yourself occupied, too. Try going for a walk or doing chores to keep your mind off of cravings.
- Snack on some raw veggies or chew some sugarless gum to ease the need to have something in your mouth.
- Stay away from places, activities or people that make you feel like smoking.
- Ask your partner or a friend to help you quit.
- Ask your health care provider about quitting aids such as patches, gum, nasal spray and medications. Don’t start using these without your health care provider’s okay, especially if you’re pregnant.