Recent focus on the harmful effects of secondhand or “passive” smoking to pregnant women has been highlighted by a new report published in the April 2011 edition of the journal Pediatrics. These conclusions were drawn from a compilation and systematic analysis of 19 similarly targeted studies from areas as diverse as North America, South America, Asia, and Europe. Conducted by the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, the results appear to indicate a direct correlation between cigarette exposure and specific risks to the unborn child. In these studies of pregnant, non-smoking women who were exposed to the smoke from more than 10 cigarettes a day, the number of stillbirths increased 23% and birth defects such as cleft palette, heart problems, or club foot also increased 13%.
The study did not indicate numbers per thousand or suggest the level of significance. It also did not indicate whether the primary risk came from the father, the primary smoker in the study 50% of the time, damaging his own sperm prior to conception, if the damage was caused through the mother’s inhalation of second-hand smoke, or if it was a combination of both factors. This report does imply that for pregnant women who live or work in an environment where partners, family members, or colleagues are permitted to smoke freely and in close proximity, the damage caused to the fetus may be much greater than originally proposed.