Passive smoking increases miscarriage and other pregnancy risks

A recent study published in the British Medical Journal found that passive smoking – second-hand exposure to cigarette smoke – increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, and ectopic pregnancy. The risk increases with more exposure. Previous research has highlighted the risk of smoking while pregnant, but until now, the effect of passive smoking has been relatively unknown.

The researchers analyzed data from over 80,000 women who had been part of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study and who had gone through menopause. Over 5,000 of the women were current smokers, approximately 35,000 were ex-smokers, and almost 41,000 were non-smokers. The group of women who were non-smokers were categorized according to the level of second-hand smoke they had been exposed to as a child, as an adult at home, and at work.

The study found that almost one in three (32.6%) of the entire group of women had miscarried at least once. Women who had smoked during their reproductive years were 16% more likely to miscarry, 44% more likely to have a stillborn child, and 43% more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy.

The findings for women who had never smoked but who had been exposed to second-hand smoke were particularly surprising. Those who had experienced the highest level of lifetime exposure to second-hand smoke for more than 10 years as a child, or more than 20 years as an adult at home, or 10 years in the workplace were 17% more likely to miscarry, 55% more likely to give birth to a stillborn child, and 61% more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy.

The findings draw attention to the important role even passive exposure to cigarette smoke, particularly prolonged exposure, might play in women’s pregnancy outcomes.

Read the article here.

Read more about the risks of smoking and women’s fertility here and here. 

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