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Pregnancy can be a stressful time for expectant mothers, and a study has revealed which behaviours during pregnancy can leave babies 12 times more likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
A new study has found that unborn babies exposed to tobacco and alcohol beyond the first trimester are at a huge risk of SIDS, also known as ‘cot death’. SIDS is the term used for the sudden, unexplained death of a child under one-years-old.
A team of scientists from the US and South Africa, known as the Prenatal Alcohol in SIDS and Stillbirth Network, studied almost 12,000 pregnancies between 2007 and 2015, in what was named the ‘Safe Passage Study’.
The team chose women from areas in both countries that had high rates of prenatal alcohol consumption and SIDS, and they determined one-year outcomes for around 94 per cent of the pregnancies.
During this study, they found that 66 infants died during the time period. 28 of these were as a result of SIDS, and 38 were of known causes.
Mothers who combined tobacco use and drinking beyond the first trimester had an almost 12-fold increased SIDS risk, and that risk increased five-fold in infants whose mothers said they continued smoking beyond the first trimester.
The risk increased four-fold among babies whose mothers reported they had continued drinking alcohol beyond the first trimester.
These risks were compared to babies who were either not exposed to tobacco or alcohol at all, or whose mothers quit tobacco or alcohol consumption by the end of the first trimester.
Following these shocking results, authors of the study have urged expectant mothers to follow official medical advice and not drink or smoke at all during pregnancy.
Study author Hannah C. Kinney, from the Department of Pathology at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard School of Medicine said, “The Safe Passage Study provides important new information about the role of dual exposures to prenatal smoking and drinking as risk factors for SIDS.
“Our findings support the current recommendation of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Surgeon General, and the World Health Organization that women not drink or smoke during pregnancy, and emphasises the significance of dual exposure, which provides the greatest risk for infant mortality.”
A joint statement from the leaders of the NIH Institutes, who provided funding for the study, added, “These findings provide still more evidence of the vital importance of the early prenatal environment to healthy postnatal outcomes.
“Insofar as many women quit drinking and smoking only after they learn that they are pregnant, this study argues strongly for screening for substance use early in pregnancy and intervening as soon as possible.”
They added, “It also calls for stronger public health messaging regarding the dangers of drinking and smoking during pregnancy, and among women who plan to become pregnant.”