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Stop-Smoking Therapies Have Benefits, Risks for Pregnant Women

They boost the quit rate but raise odds of premature birth, experts note

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Pregnant smokers can get help quitting with the use of nicotine replacement gum, patches or lozenges, according to a new study.

But the benefits of these therapies must be weighed against concerns about early birth, the researchers add.

Writing in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the authors noted that an independent safety board suspended recruitment for the study due to health problems among women taking nicotine replacement therapy, namely premature delivery at about 36 weeks.

Still, continuing smoking brings its own risks.

"Every pregnant woman wants to quit smoking. Every woman knows it's bad for her baby," lead author Kathryn Pollak, associate professor at Duke University Medical Center, in Durham, N.C., said in a prepared statement.

The researchers worked with a group of 181 female smokers in their second trimester of pregnancy. The smokers received cognitive behavioral therapy, including in-person and telephone counseling sessions, to help them cope with quitting smoking. The option to use nicotine replacement therapy in the form of gum, patches or lozenges was available to 122 of the women.

The researchers analyzed the women's cotinine saliva levels to determine their smoking status. Cotinine is the main product of nicotine after it is broken down in the body.

Seven weeks after starting the nicotine replacement therapies, one out of four women had quit, compared with only 8 percent of those who received counseling alone. At 38 weeks of gestation, 18 percent of the women using nicotine replacement therapies remained smoke-free, compared to 7 percent of the women receiving counseling.

However, the differences between the groups disappeared three months after delivery, as many more of the women in the counseling group successfully quit smoking after the birth of their child.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, babies whose mothers smoke are 30 percent more likely to be born prematurely.

More information

For more on tobacco use during pregnancy, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

-- Madeline Vann

SOURCE: Health Behavior News Service, news release, Sept. 25, 2007

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