Pregnant women who light up, don’t always fess up

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A new study casts doubt on the accuracy of self-reported smoking during pregnancy. The study, published last week in the British Medical Journal, involved a random sample of 3,475 pregnant women in Scotland. Researchers compared the women’s self-reported smoking status with results of blood tests that measured the women’s recent nicotine exposure.

According to the results, 24% of women admitted smoking during their pregnancy, yet the “gotcha” blood tests revealed that the real percentage of smokers was more like 30%—meaning that one-fifth of smokers were well…pleading the fifth.

How does that translate to the U.S.? Among reproductive age women in the U.S., an estimated 22% smoke. And even if a 9-month hiatus from the habit was an easy order, not all women consider pregnancy sufficient reason to stop puffing.

Between 10 and 12% of American women smoke during pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also estimates that 30% of low birth weight babies (often weighing less than 5.5 pounds), 10% of premature births, and 5% of infant deaths in the U.S. are a result of prenatal smoking.

Back in Scotland, the study authors conclude by calling for better methods of identifying pregnant smokers so that accurate data is used to form policy and provide patient care, such as greater access to smoking cessation services.

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