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Secondhand Smoke Tied to Miscarriages and Stillbirths

Update Date: Feb 28, 2014 03:50 PM EST

Experts, doctors and researchers have repeatedly found evidence that smoking tobacco is extremely detrimental to health. Aside from directly harming oneself, smokers can hurt others by exposing them to secondhand smoke. In a new study, researchers tied secondhand smoking to increasing pregnant women's risks of having miscarriages and stillbirths.

For this study, the research team headed by Andrew Hyland from the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY, examined data on over 80,000 postmenopausal women who have been pregnant at least once. The women were involved with the Women's Health Initiative study. Within the sample, 6.3 percent were current smokers, 43 percent used to be smokers and 51 percent never smoked. The team assessed the nonsmoker participants' exposure to secondhand smoke when they were children and adults in the home and work settings.

The researchers found that roughly 33 percent of the women had suffered at least one miscarriage, 4.4 percent had a stillbirth and 2.5 percent had experienced a tubal ectopic pregnancy, which occurs when the fertilized egg ends up on the outside of the uterus. When the researchers compared smokers to nonsmokers, they found that women who smoked during their reproductive years had a 16 percent higher chance of experiencing a miscarriage. Smokers were also 44 percent more likely to have one stillborn and 43 percent more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy.

When the researchers looked at exposure to secondhand smoking in the nonsmoker group, they found that women who had higher levels of exposure were more likely to have miscarriages, stillbirths and ectopic pregnancies. The team calculated that for women who have had over 10 to 20 years of exposure to secondhand smoke as children or adults, they were 17 percent, 55 percent and 61 percent more likely to have a miscarriage, stillbirth and ectopic pregnancy respectively.

The study's findings stress the importance of reducing ones' exposure to tobacco smoke whether it is direct or indirect. The study, "Associations of lifetime active and passive smoking with spontaneous abortion, stillbirth and tubal ectopic pregnancy: a cross-sectional analysis of historical data from the Women's Health Initiative," was published in Tobacco Control.

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