A Swedish study has found that mothers who used snuff during pregnancy were more likely to have babies with breathing problems than babies of mothers who smoked cigarettes.
I’ve always associated chewing tobacco with men–maybe because it involves the frequent and unladylike practice of spitting–but apparently in Sweden, snuff is fairly common with both sexes. It’s called snus and it comes in these cute little tea bag pouches and doesn’t require constant spitting.
In any event, this study may have implications for all kinds of tobacco users as it suggests it’s not just the smoke and toxins but the nicotine itself that can lead to breathing problems in babies whose mothers have used nicotine products of some kind.
Researchers wonder if cigarette substitutes/quitting aids such as gum and patches might carry as many– if not more– risks during pregnancy as cigarettes.
Snuff is generally considered safer than cigarettes but Dr. Anna Gunnerbeck, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, says this may not be the case for pregnant women. She told Reuters Health that chewing tobacco “may have a little bit different effect than smoking, because smoking has the combustion products, but it’s still not safe during pregnancy.”
Gand her colleagues looked at data from over 600,00 babies born in Sweden between 1999 and 2006. They found that sleep apnea– a pause in breathing that may be accompanied by an irregular heartbeat– was 50% higher in the babies of smoking mothers than non-smokers and twice as high in babies whose moms used snuff as moms who used no nicotine product at all.
They compared information gathered from moms when they were a few months pregnant — including about snuff and cigarette use — with babies’ hospital records. Specifically, the researchers were looking for a diagnosis of “apnea,” which occurs when a newborn stops breathing, sometimes accompanied by an irregular heartbeat. One or two in every 1,000 babies born to moms who didn’t use snuff or cigarettes developed apnea, according to the results published in Pediatrics. Apnea is apparently linked to risk of infection and can be a prediction for some health problems later.
The bottom line seems to be: If you’re trying to quit smoking while pregnant maybe look for methods that don’t involve other nicotine products.