A surprising number of women still smoke during pregnancy

CDC's National Center for Health Statistics report also shows which states have the highest and lowest rates of smoking during pregnancy.

A surprising number of women still smoke during pregnancy

Photo: iStockphoto

There's no question that smoking is one of the hardest addictions to beat, but if there was ever a good time to quit, it's during pregnancy, since it's associated with a wide range of serious health risks for baby, including birth defects, prematurity and low birth weight, stillbirth and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

And yet, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that about one in 14 pregnant women who gave birth in the United States in 2016 smoked cigarettes during her pregnancy.

While that represents just 7.2 percent of all pregnancies—and it's down from the 10 percent rate that was reported in 2011—some states' numbers are much higher, while others are well below the average.

For example, the state of West Virginia topped the list at 25.1 percent of women who say they smoked at any time while they were pregnant, and in California, at the bottom, that number is just 1.6 percent. Other states with the lowest smoking rates include Utah, Texas, Hawaii, New Jersey, Nevada, Arizona, New York, Connecticut and the District of Columbia. States with the highest prevalence of smoking during pregnancy also include Kentucky, Montana, Vermont and Missouri. And not entirely surprisingly, some of those states also happened to have some of the  highest infant mortality rates, according to a CNN interview with Haywood Brown, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University School of Medicine, who was not involved with the study.

There were other interesting findings in the report from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. For instance, the researchers noted that smoking was highest among young adult women ages 20-24, followed by teenage girls ages 15-19 and then adult women ages 25-29. In terms of race and ethnicity, women who identified as American Indian or Alaska Native smoked at a rate of 16.7 percent, followed by non-Hispanic white women at 10.5 percent, non-Hispanic black women at 6 percent, Hispanic women at 1.8 percent and non-Hispanic Asian women at 0.6 percent.

In terms of education, women with only a high school diploma or GED had the highest prevalence of smoking during pregnancy at 12.2 percent, and as education levels increased the levels dropped—to about 7.9 percent among those with some college or associate's degree.

All of the data makes a few things clear: we still need to beat the anti-smoking education drum quite loudly, say experts, and the risks from smoking while pregnant remain something that expectant moms—no matter who they are or where they live—can actually put in the hard work to change.

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