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Stillbirth passive smoking link confirmed

3rd May 2011

Pregnant mothers who are exposed to secondhand smoke may be more likely to give birth to stillborn babies than those who are not, according to a recent Canadian study.

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Lead researcher Joan Crane, of the Memorial University of Newfoundland, said that the recent information was important for women, their families, and for healthcare providers.

She said that undiluted sidestream smoke contained many harmful chemicals, in greater concentration than cigarette smoke inhaled through a filter.

The researchers also supposed that secondhand smoke could harm a developing foetus in a variety of ways, such as by hampering blood flow in the mother's body.

For the study, the researchers relied on a database of births in two Canadian provinces.

The database also gave researchers enough information about stillbirths to note that a higher percentage of babies died during the third trimester of pregnancy if the mothers were exposed to tobacco smoke.

Based on information in the database, the researchers were also able to conclude that babies born to mothers exposed to secondhand smoke ended up with a smaller head circumference than babies who were not.

In total, 11% of the women in the database, over 1000 women, reported being exposed to secondhand smoke.

The researchers also found that babies born to passive smokers weighed 2 ounces less than babies born to mothers who were not exposed to secondhand smoke.

Hamisu Salihu, a stillbirth expert at the University of South Florida in the US, who was not involved in the study, said that doctors would now have reason to tell patients that secondhand smoke could kill their babies.

Salihu said he believed policy makers should take the matter of secondhand smoke exposure seriously, and that head circumference was thought to be linked to intelligence.

Infections such as syphilis are one of the most common causes of stillbirth, and birth defects and foetal growth restriction (in which a foetus fails to develop) also contribute.

While the study does not prove that secondhand smoke definitely causes stillbirths, the researchers arrived at their conclusion after accounting for all other statistical factors, meaning that some link must exist.

 

 

 

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