Smoking during pregnancy increases risk of sudden infant death

New research has linked smoking before and during pregnancy with an increased risk of sudden unexpected infant death syndrome. — AFP pic

Smoking during pregnancy increases risk of sudden infant death

Carried out by researchers at Seattle Children's Research Institute and Microsoft data scientists, the new study looked at data on 20,685,463 USA births between 2007 and 2011, including 19,127 cases of SUID.

The researchers at AI For Good Research Lab at Microsoft used Microsoft Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to analyse the mothers' cigarette smoking habits for all of the births included in the study.

According to a new study by The Seattle Children's Research Institute in collaboration with Microsoft, smoking during pregnancy, even one cigarette a day, can double the risk of sudden unexpected infant death (SUID).

The risk was highest among heavier smokers. Smoking has always been linked to an increased risk of these fatalities, known as sudden unexpected infant death (SUID), but the current study offers fresh evidence of how much cutting back or quitting might help improve babies' survival odds.

Not only that, but researchers say if the woman smokes a pack a day while pregnant, the baby's risk of unexpected sudden death almost triples compared to infants of non-smokers.

If no women smoked during pregnancy, Anderson and her co-authors estimate that 800 of the approximately 3,700 deaths from SUID every year in the US and other parts of the world could be prevented, lowering current SUID rates by 22 per cent.

Ladies who diminished smoking by the third trimester saw a 12 percent abatement in SUID risk.

In addition, for women who smoked an average of one to 20 cigarettes a day, the risk of SUID increased as the number of cigarettes smoked also increased, however the association plateaued after 20 cigarettes a day.

The study wasn't a controlled experiment created to prove whether or how smoking causes SUID.

According to experts, self-reported statistics show that about 338-thousand women admit to smoking during pregnancy each year and that more than half of them are unwilling or unable to stop.

The harmful effects of smoking are not unknown. Smoking by mothers, fathers and anyone else around pregnant women and babies may increase not just the risk of SUID but also childhood asthma and respiratory illnesses, Goodstein added.

Anderson says the data from this study supports public health efforts aimed at encouraging women to quit smoking well before pregnancy.

"All babies have an arousal, or wake up, system that triggers if they don't have enough air around the face, for example if covered with a blanket", Pease said by email.

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