Context: Cigarette smoke, whether inhaled voluntarily or not, causes damage to the mother-infant pair. The antenatal period may present the best opportunity for performing effective anti-smoking campaigns.
Objective: To study the obstetric and perinatal effects of smoking on pregnancy and the infant.
Type of study: Prospective study, interviewing pregnant women who were randomly selected at the maternity hospital as they were being discharged after giving birth.
Setting: Hospital Municipal Vereador José Storópolli, São Paulo, Brazil.
Methods: 758 patients were interviewed regarding smoke inhalation before being discharged from the maternity hospital. The groups were formed by 42 active smokers, 272 passive smokers, 108 who inhaled smoke both actively and passively, and 336 non-smokers. The groups were compared regarding age, parity, school education, incidence of spontaneous abortion, rate of caesarian births, average gestational age at birth, rate of low birth weight and adequacy of weight in relation to the gestational age of newborn infants. For all variables we considered p < 0.05 as statistically significant.
Results: There was a high rate (55.7%) of pregnant smokers, including 5.5% active, 35.9% passive and 14.3% active-passive smokers. Active and active-passive smokers were older and had higher parity. Active smokers had lower education levels and higher rates of previous spontaneous abortion. The weights of newborn babies were lower for smoking mothers.
Discussion: The study was performed among patients that were mostly of low economic, social and cultural levels, thus possibly explaining the high incidence of smokers. Worse still was that 35.9% of the non-smokers were actually passive smokers. These rates we report were similar to those from the literature. The typical receptiveness of teenage girls to unrestricted advertising in the media contributes towards an early start to acquiring the habit of smoking, including during pregnancy in our country. We emphasize the difficulties in quantifying exposure to cigarettes even among active smokers.
Conclusions: Cigarette smoke, whether inhaled voluntarily or not, has an unfavorable effect on the mother-infant pair.