Smoking even one cigarette a day during pregnancy can double the chance of sudden unexpected death for your baby, according to a new study analyzing over 20 million births, including over 19,000 unexpected infant deaths.
The study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, analyzed data on smoking during pregnancy from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s birth/infant death data set between 2007 and 2011and found that the risk of death rises by .07 for each additional cigarette smoked, up to 20 a day, a typical pack of cigarettes.
By the time you smoke a pack a day, the study found, your baby’s risk of unexpected sudden death has nearly tripled compared with infants of nonsmokers.
“One of the most compelling and most important points that I would take away from the study is that even smoking one or two cigarettes still had an effect on sudden infant death,” said pulmonologist Dr. Cedric “Jamie” Rutland, a national spokesman for the American Lung Association.
While ending a smoking habit should be the goal, the study did find that cutting back on the number of cigarettes was somewhat beneficial. Women who reduced their smoking by the third trimester saw a 12% decrease in sudden death risk; quitting entirely by the third trimester created a 23% reduction in risk.
“Every cigarette counts,” said lead study author Tatiana Anderson, a neuroscientist at the Seattle Children’s Research Institute. “And doctors should be having these conversations with their patients and saying, ‘Look, you should quit. That’s your best odds for decreasing sudden infant death. But if you can’t, every cigarette that you can reduce does help.”