Secondhand Smoke Exposure Raises Risk of Stillbirth

Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in America, is linked to some 443,000 fatalities and $100 billion in healthcare costs annually, and kills some 1,200 Americans every day. Now, says the BBC, University of Nottingham researchers revealed that pregnant women exposed to <"">secondhand smoke—at work or home—have a 23 percent increased risk for a stillbirth and a 13 percent increased risk of giving birth to an infant with birth defects.

The research team reviewed 19 prior global studies from North and South America, Asia, and Europe that looked at pregnant nonsmokers considered passive smokers due to their “proximity” to a smoking partner or smoking co-workers, said the BBC. Exposure to over 10 cigarettes daily is sufficient for increased risks, according to the study.

“It is very important that men quit smoking before trying for a baby.” Dr. Jo Leonardi-Bee of the University of Nottingham said, quoted the BBC. The study did not reveal increased risks for miscarriage or newborn death from second-hand smoke, but did see increases in stillbirths and birth defects, noted the BBC. No one specific congenital defect was implicated.

Previous research indicates that smoking women create significant health dangers to their unborn babies such as “low birth weight, premature birth,” and other birth defects including cleft palate, clubfoot, and cardiac issues, said the BBC.

Dr. Leonardi-Bee, the study lead and associate professor in medical statistics at the University, said the timing of when second-hand smoke effects start remains unclear, wrote the BBC. “What we still don’t know is whether it is the effect of side-stream smoke that the woman inhales that increases these particular risks or whether it is the direct effect of mainstream smoke that the father inhales during smoking that affects sperm development, or possibly both. More research is needed into this issue although we already know that smoking does have an impact on sperm development, so it is very important that men quit smoking before trying for a baby,” quoted the BBC.

“The risks are related to the amount of cigarettes that are smoked so it is, therefore, very important for men to cut down. Ultimately though, in the interests of their partner and their unborn child, the best option would be to give up completely,” Dr. Leonardi-Bee added.

Andrew Shennan, professor of obstetrics at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London and spokesperson for Tommy’s, a baby charity, pointed out, quoted the BBC “It is vital that women are made aware of the possible risks associated with second-hand smoke and alert those around them of the impact it could potentially have on the health of their unborn baby. The chemicals in cigarettes are known to significantly increase the risk of serious pregnancy complications.”

We have long written that second-hand smoke has been linked to a variety of health issues; contains over 4,000 substances, including over 50 known or suspected carcinogens; and is linked to many diseases in adults and children, such as sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, middle ear disease, asthma, coronary heart disease, lung and sinus cancers, sinus problems, mental problems, and hearing loss.

Smoking has also recently been linked to colorectal cancer, creating damage in the body just minutes after inhaling for the first time, increasing risks for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) and significantly increasing arterial stiffness in people as young as 18 to 30.

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