Uh-oh. According to a new study published by the scientific journal Addiction, nearly half of the women who stop smoking while pregnant pick the habit back up again after giving birth.
Despite public health messages that warn of miscarriage and premature birth, an estimated 10 percent of women in the U.S. and Canada, and 17 percent of women in the U.K., still smoke during pregnancy. Researchers from the University of Nottingham analyzed data from 11 trials involving 571 women who tried to quit, and they found that 43 percent of the ones who stayed away from cigarettes during pregnancy went back to smoking within six months of giving birth.
"Most pregnant smokers do not achieve abstinence from smoking while they are pregnant," the authors concluded. "And among those that do, most will restart smoking within six months of childbirth." This means these women and their babies aren't receiving the full benefit of smoking cessation.
"Babies born to mothers who smoke are at greater risk for pneumonia, asthma, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and acute ear infections," says Carol Anderson, R.N., a lactation consultant at Rose Medical Center in Denver. Maternal smoking has also been linked to lower breastmilk supply and early weaning.
So now what?
The researchers say that while not smoking during pregnancy is important, we need to find better ways to help new moms quit cigarettes for good.
"Smoking during pregnancy is a major global public health issue," said lead author Dr. Matthew Jones, adding that a conservative estimate for the annual economic burden in the U.S. is $110 million. "Our report reveals a wide gulf between what pregnant women need to quit smoking and what our healthcare services currently provide."
Need help kicking the habit? Check out our guide to quitting for good.