It’s never surprising to hear that smoking is not healthy in pregnancy (or ever) but studies have shown that smoking during pregnancy reduces the chance of preeclampsia, a life-threatening disease characterized by high blood-pressure and a build up of protein in the urine.
“Using a database with information on more than 300,000 births between 2004 and 2006, the researchers found that women who smoked during pregnancy had a slightly lower rate of preeclampsia — 1.2 percent, versus 1.5 percent among non-smokers” from Reuters.
This is old news. But it’s relevance has popped up again in the context of a new study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, showing that smokers who develop preeclampsia in pregnancy may be at higher risk for complications associated with the disorder. These complications include preterm delivery, low-birth weight and stillbirth.
Though most pregnant women who develop precclampsia deliver healthy babies, the condition is serious and can become fatal if not treated. The treatment for preeclampsia is delivery of the baby–often immediate delivery-which is why preterm and lowbirth weight babies are more likely in a preeclampic mother.
Researchers don’t know why smoking lowers the risk of preeclampsia but speculate that it’s got something to do with the way the chemicals in cigarettes inhibit the constriction of blood vessels. Nevertheless, they are holding up this new study — and the many, many others linking smoking to health problems for mothers and babies– as evidence that the risks of smoking in pregnancy far outweigh the one, small benefit.