Pregnant Women in New Zealand are Getting Paid to Quit Smoking 26601

Happy New Year! You've probably already made your resolutions for the year, and maybe even broken a few (oops!)! Well, in New Zealand the government is trying to make sure that pregnant smokers keep their promise to quit their nasty nicotine habit, by giving out vouchers for up to $300 worth of groceries, baby products, phone credit, movie tickets and gas.

The rational side of me thinks it's absurd that you would be rewarded for doing the right thing for your baby. After all, smoking during pregnancy contributes to higher rates of miscarriage, pre-term births, sudden infant death syndrome, and lifelong complications like asthma, learning disabilities and behavioral problems. Why would you put your baby through all of that?

On the other hand, when I take the time to get off my soapbox, I realize nicotine is addictive, and when you're addicted to something, your better judgment goes out the window. So why not give these addicted women an incentive to kick their habit if it means saving babies lives or saving them from lifelong complications?

About 13 percent of pregnant women in the U.S. smoke during pregnancy. According to the U.S. Public Health Service, if all pregnant women stopped smoking, there would be an estimated 10 percent reduction in infant deaths in this country. Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of stillbirth, miscarriage, and severe vaginal bleeding, and nearly doubles a woman's risk of having a baby with low birth weight. Studies by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also suggest that smoking increases the risk of preterm delivery (before 37 weeks of gestation) by about 30 percent, and it increases the likelihood of certain birth defects, including a cleft lip and/or cleft palate. Babies of mothers who smoke are twice as likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) as babies of nonsmokers.

Smoking also increases the risk of having an ectopic pregnancy, and almost doubles a woman's risk of developing placental complications, like placenta previa, a condition in which the placenta is attached too low in the uterus and covers part or all of the cervix; and placental abruption, in which the placenta separates from the uterine wall before delivery. Both can result in a delivery that jeopardizes the life of mother and baby.

The good news is that quitting smoking during the first trimester can greatly reduce the risk of having a baby with low birth weight— almost to that of a woman who doesn't smoke. So there is reason to quit smoking even if you've already exposed your baby to nicotine. Do it for your little one, if not for yourself!

TELL US: Do you think there should be incentive-based government programs in the US, like in New Zealand, to encourage pregnant women to quit smoking?

Image of pregnant woman smoking courtesy of Shutterstock.