Study: Secondhand Smoke Increases Risk of Stillbirth, Birth Defects

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Sara Wight/Corbis

Note to expectant fathers: Stop smoking.

A new review paper by University of Nottingham researchers found that secondhand-smoke exposure increased the risk of stillbirth by 23% in nonsmoking pregnant women, compared with women who were not exposed to smoke at work or at home. Passive smoking also increased the risk of congenital birth defects by 13%.

For their meta-analysis, researchers analyzed data from 19 previous studies that assessed the effects of secondhand smoke on pregnancy; the paper is slated to appear in the April issue of the journal Pediatrics.

The researchers also looked into possible effects of secondhand smoke on miscarriage and newborn death but found no significant correlations. They were also unable to determine the specific stages of pregnancy during which secondhand smoke posed the greatest risk. (More on Study: Smoking During Pregnancy May Result in Uncoordinated Kids)

The authors noted that the baby’s father was the source of secondhand-smoke exposure in five of the 19 studies: “These results highlight the importance for smoking prevention and cessation to focus on the father in addition to the mother during the preconception period as well as during pregnancy.”

Study author Jo Leonardi-Bee said in a press statement that further research is needed to determine whether paternal smoking affects pregnancy through the sidestream smoke that the mother inhales, or whether the father’s smoking affects his sperm development, or both. (More on Study: Moms Who Smoke During Pregnancy Might Have Criminal Kids)

Leonardi-Bee said it takes about 10 cigarettes a day to produce these nasty results, adding, “ultimately though, in the interests of their partner and their unborn child the best option of course would be to give up completely.”

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