Each year, 600,000 children in North America are exposed to cigarette smoke before birth.
The harmful effects of this include a higher risk of miscarriage, premature birth, sudden infant death syndrome, low birth weight and height, respiratory problems and obesity, as well as an association to behavioural problems (e.g. oppositionality, conduct problems and impulsivity) although whether this is a causal association remains uncertain.
While many women quit smoking when they find out they are expecting, about 10-15% do not. Many of these include teenage mothers and mothers living in low-income households. Even when mothers do quit smoking during pregnancy, many resume smoking after their child is born, leading to future health problems for both.
It’s clear that more education and smoking cessation programs are needed for new mothers who smoke, especially those most at risk.