No smoking when expecting, says doctor

One in four Greek women endanger the lives of their unborn children by continuing to smoke during pregnancy, according to a survey by Thessaloniki University’s neonates intensive care department and neurology clinic among a sample of 1,375 mothers of babies born at the clinic in 2003. The survey showed that 43 percent of Greek women of reproductive age are smokers and just 38 percent of these give up the habit while pregnant. «The percentage of Greek women who smoke is very high and stays high during pregnancy, with serious effects on the health of their babies,» said Elisavet Diamanti, lecturer in neonate health at Thessaloniki University and head of the survey. «The first effect is poor pre-natal development, in other words, the children have lower weights at birth. Apart from nicotine, cigarettes contain harmful chemicals; there has not been a complete study of the harmful effects of these chemicals on the children. It has also been observed that children born to mothers who smoke during pregnancy are more irritable.» Of the women who took part in the survey, 58 percent were Greek, 37.6 were foreigners and 4.4 percent were Gypsies. One in three said they smoked before becoming pregnant (43 percent of the Greeks, 12.2 percent of the foreigners and 72.2 percent of the Gypsy women). During pregnancy, 20.9 percent said they continued to smoke (26.5 percent of the Greeks, 6.4 percent of the foreigners and 69 percent of the Gypsies). Of the Greek women who continued to smoke, 43.4 percent smoked 1-5 cigarettes a day, 32.5 percent smoked 6-10 a day, 19.7 percent 11-20 a day and 4.2 more than 20. Most of the women who smoked while pregnant had only a basic education (half of the university graduates quit, compared to 19 percent of women who had not gone to high school), usually had no health insurance, had large families and/or did not visit a doctor regularly. «We all have to realize that women must stop smoking when pregnant,» said Diamanti. «There is no scientific evidence to support the idea that the stress of quitting affects the baby. Doctors should be very strict with their patients.»

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