The stunning danger of smoking while pregnant

In a new study in Pediatrics, researchers estimated that if expectant moms would just quit smoking, we could prevent 800 of those deaths. Getty Images/fStop

(Julia Belluz/ Vox) — While many people know that smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the US, it’s less appreciated that some of those deaths are newborn babies.

Researchers don’t fully understand why cigarettes increase the risk of infant death, but they think it has something to do with nicotine’s effect on brain regions that interfere with a baby’s sleeping and breathing patterns. Smoking is also known to restrict the blood flow that carries vital oxygen and nutrients between mom and baby.

When smoking kills, it can happen quickly. Roughly 3,600 babies in the US die suddenly every year for unknown reasons. The blanket term for these unexplained deaths is SUID, or sudden unexpected infant deaths, of which SIDS is the most well-known type. (…)

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