Snuff Use During Pregnancy Puts Baby, Mom, at Risk
Mon February 10, 2003 02:17 PM ET
By Melissa Schorr
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters Health) - Women who use smokeless tobacco rather than smoking cigarettes during pregnancy may still put themselves and their babies in jeopardy, government researchers reported Friday at the annual meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine here.
"We need to do more research about whether smokeless tobacco is a safe substitute for smoking, it may not be that simple," said study co-author Dr. Mark Klebanoff, director of the division of Epidemiology, Statistics and Prevention Research at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Maryland.
The researchers hoped to evaluate the effect of snuff, or smokeless tobacco, on the health of the developing fetus. Lead author Dr. Lucinda England of the NIH and colleagues examined data from the Swedish Medical Birth Register for women who delivered babies during 1999-2000.
The researchers compared the 789 snuff users to the 11,242 cigarette smokers and 11,500 women who refrained from using any tobacco, looking at rates of preterm delivery, the pregnancy complication preeclampsia and restriction of fetal growth. The researchers took into account other factors that could influence these outcomes such as the mother's age and weight and the infant's gender.
The researchers found, as expected, that women who smoked gave birth to babies weighing an average of 206 grams (7.3 ounces) less than women who did not use any tobacco. Women who used snuff during pregnancy gave birth to babies weighing an average of 40 grams (1.4 ounces) less than non-tobacco-users.
Women who used snuff during pregnancy were also about twice as likely to deliver their babies prematurely, which is a known risk factor for health problems in infancy and childhood.
Klebanoff noted the slight reduction in birth weight among snuff users may be due to the earlier delivery time. "It's possible that reduction is accounted for by the shorter pregnancies," he said.
However, the snuff users were also more likely to suffer preeclampsia--the development of dangerously high blood pressure during pregnancy--while the risk of preeclampsia to cigarette smokers was actually reduced.
The researchers conclude that using snuff during pregnancy may not be a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes.
"Because of that increase in early delivery and hypertension, we can't assume that it's okay to go over to snuff if you want to try to quit smoking," Klebanoff noted. "It sounds like it may not be safer."