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Stillbirth Drop Linked To Smoking Ban

First Posted: Aug 14, 2015 04:52 PM EDT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warn against smoking and pregnancy. Not only does smoking make it harder for women to become pregnant, in general, but it can increase the risk of miscarriage, resulting in problems with the placenta--the baby's source of food and oxygen during pregnancy. For example, health officials note that if the placenta separates too soon from the womb, bleeding can result, which is particularly dangerous for the mother and child.

Smoking also increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and low birth weight, which increases a child's risk of certain chronic health conditions and developmental disorders. Risks of cleft lip and/or cleft palate are also higher for babies whose mothers smoked during pregnancy.

Yet there's good news based on recent findings published in the journal Scientific Reports. Researchers have noted that anti-smoking laws in England have resulted in a drop in stillbirths and newborn deaths.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found that since the last smoking ban was introduced, stillbirths have gone down by close to 8 percent in the area.

"This study is further evidence of the potential power of smoke-free legislation to protect present and future generations from the devastating health consequences of smoking and second hand exposure to tobacco smoke," Aziz Sheikh, co-director of the University of Edinburgh's Center for Medical Informatics, said in a statement.

Based on this recent study, researchers examined information on over 10 million births in England between 1995 and 2011. Researchers also assessed the impact of a smoking ban based on the number of babies born with low birth weight.

Findings revealed that more than than five thousand fewer babies were born with a low birth weight of less than two and a half kilograms, the researchers estimate.

Previous research has shown that rates of premature births drop significantly in countries that introduce smoke-free legislation. Yet this is the first study to show that smoke-free legislation has helped to reduce the risk of babies dying both before and shortly following birth.

"Currently, only around 18 percent of the world's population is protected by comprehensive smoke-free laws. Accelerated action to implement smoking bans in the many countries yet to do so is likely to save considerable numbers of young lives and bring a healthier future for our unborn children," concluded researcher Dr. Jasper Been.

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