You'll Never Believe How Many Women Still Smoke in Pregnancy

It's a no brainer: you should not be smoking when you're trying to have a child. But surprisingly, a staggeringly high percentage of women still do.

You'll Never Believe How Many Women Still Smoke in Pregnancy VGstockstudio/Shutterstock

There are some truly serious risks that come with smoking—and they don't just affect you; they can also have negative repercussions for your baby. Despite this, about one in ten women smoke in the three months before becoming pregnant—and of these women, only about one-fourth quit before getting pregnant, according to a recent report.

Smoking problem

"Smoking during pregnancy is double trouble," said lead researcher Sally Curtin, a statistician at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics. "There is a mountain of research that it does affect the unborn child."

Smoking can lead to premature birth, low birth weight and even mental or developmental problems that can persist throughout your baby's life.

"We know that smoking is a problem for pregnancy, and we continue to see many women smoking," Edward McCabe, M.D. senior vice president and chief medical officer at the March of Dimes, said.

Smoking and TTC

While Dr. McCabe acknowledged that women have to make their own choices when it comes to smoking, those who plan on getting pregnant should work on getting their bodies in the best health possible even before they conceive.

Curtin suggested that rates of women who smoke while pregnant is likely underreported—but the percent who admitted to smoking at some point during pregnancy is a huge number.

According to researchers, American Indian and Alaska Native women were most likely to be smokers, with a staggering 18 percent reporting the habit. In most states, the rate of women who smoked while pregnant averaged around 10 percent—in California, it was close to 2 percent, while about 27 percent of pregnant women in West Virginia smoked.

Almost 21 percent of the women who did not quit before becoming pregnant did manage to quit by their third trimesters—but the women who smoked throughout the durations of their pregnancies smoked fewer cigarettes as the pregnancy progressed (from an average on 13 cigarettes a day before pregnancy to about nine a day by the third trimester.)

But a reduction in the numbers of cigarettes smoked is simply not good enough, according to the March of Dimes—quitting completely is so, so important if you want to maximize your chances of having a healthy baby. "Part of planning a pregnancy, if you're smoking, is to work on quitting," Dr. McCabe said.