It has been known for a while that the chances of miscarriage, premature birth and low birth weight are increased if a woman smokes during pregnancy. Birth defects that lead to health problems in children are also common if the mother smokes during pregnancy. In spite of these risks, one in five pregnant women smokes. The reason is simple – to quit smoking is difficult, no matter what the circumstances.
The results of a new study, one of a few to compare the effects of using the drug Zyban and nicotine patches during pregnancy and the risks to the fetus, gives new hope to pregnant smokers.
In a surprise result, Dr. Anick Bérard, Professor, at the University of Montreal‘s Faculty of Pharmacy and the Ste-Justine University Hospital who conducted the study, has found that both Zyban and nicotine patches actually has positive effects for the unborn child. This allows pregnant women to stop smoking during pregnancy without being concerned about harming the baby.
The study also found that in 80% of cases, women who used the drug Zyban or nicotine patches successively quit smoking. Even after the use of these products was stopped, 68% of women using nicotine patches and a slightly lower 60% of Zyban users did not start smoking again, either during or after pregnancy.
Using nicotine patches during pregnancy was also found to reduce the risk of both low birth weight and premature birth.
Dr. Bérard notes that the published results will help health care professionals to evaluate the risks and benefits associated with each pharmacological method. This will enable them to better prescribe the right treatment to pregnant women. In addition, pregnant women will now have evidence-based options to quit smoking.
There is no doubt that stopping smoking during pregnancy is beneficial for mothers and children, both in the short and the long term. The study’s results are consistent with general programs to discourage smoking that are implemented internationally.