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Education is strongest predictor of smoking for pregnant women

CINCINNATI -- The most comprehensive national study to date of smoking before, during and after pregnancy shows that women with less education are more likely to smoke before delivery, less likely to quit during pregnancy and more likely to relapse after delivery.

The Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center study, published in the November issue of the American Journal of Public Health, demonstrates that "health disadvantages associated with low maternal education are dynamic they accrue over a time period that is rich in health care contacts," according to Robert Kahn, MD, the study's main author.

Dr. Kahn, a physician in Cincinnati Children's division of General and Community Pediatrics, likens the situation at-risk mothers face to a race, one in which women with less education start from behind and lose further ground as they progress through pregnancy and the birth of their children.

"A woman's level of education is the strongest predictor of whether she will smoke before, during and after pregnancy," says Dr. Kahn.

"It is important to appreciate that these women also face higher hurdles along the way, including poverty, depression and the powerful cues of other household smokers," he adds. "Ensuring continuous and comprehensive health services is critical for these women and for their children."

The study used data from the 1988 National Maternal and Infant Health Survey and 1991 follow-up. This survey of more than 8,000 women was designed to identify factors related to poor pregnancy outcomes. Dr. Kahn investigated factors associated with trends in maternal smoking over the course of pregnancy and three years postpartum.

Dr. Kahn discovered that smoking rates among women with a college degree decreased 30 percent from the period before pregnancy to three years after a birth. It did not change, however, among the least educated women. Risk factors for smoking included low income, living with another sm
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Contact: Jim Feuer
jim.feuer@cchmc.org
513-636-4656
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
29-Oct-2002


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