Women Are Still Smoking, Drinking, and Doing Drugs While Pregnant

A new survey finds that substance abuse during pregnancy varies by race and ethnicity.

By: Melissa Romero

According to a new survey, despite known health risks, women still smoke, do drugs, and drink alcohol while pregnant. Photograph courtesy of Flickr user karindalziel.
Well, this is unsettling: One in five white women still smokes while pregnant.

That's according to a recent survey released by the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality last week, which found that substance use during pregnancy varies by race and ethnicity. The survey included pregnant women between the ages of 15 and 44.

White women who are pregnant are more likely to smoke cigarettes than African-American and Hispanic women, whose smoking rates are 14.2 and 6.5 percent, respectively. Approximately 21.8 white pregnant women smoke.

On the other hand, pregnant black women are more likely to drink alcohol and use illicit drugs. Hispanic women were less likely to use illicit drugs, drink alcohol, or smoke while pregnant than black and white women.

Smoking while pregnant can put both mothers and unborn babies at risk for future health problems, including sudden infant death syndrome, premature births, and cleft lips or palates, to name a few. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have a miscarriage.

The CDC notes that in 2008, 13 percent of women reported smoking during the last three months of pregnancy. Of those who smoked three months before pregnancy, 45 percent quit during pregnancy, but they were 50 percent more likely to go back to smoking after having a baby.

As for booze, an unborn baby's exposure to alcohol can cause both physical and mental birth defects, including fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Approximately 40,000 babies are born with some form of FASD each year, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Researchers noted that the data should encourage doctors to deliver more information to patients about the health risks of substance abuse during pregnancy.

Read the full report at the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality's website