Study Shows Babies Worse Off from Snuff Using Versus Smoking Moms

A new study by a research group from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden shows that babies of mothers who chewed snuff while pregnant had more breathing problems than did babies whose mothers smoked during their pregnancy.

Lead researcher, Anna Gunnerbeck said in an interview with Reuters that it appears women who switch to chewing snuff while pregnant are in fact only making things worse for their unborn child.

Snuff, more common in Sweden than in other parts of the world, is ground up tobacco that is placed in the mouth and soaked with saliva and then slowly sucked on over time, has more nicotine in it than cigarettes, and up until this study was conducted, was considered a better alternative for pregnant women. Now, not only is snuff under fire, so too is the use of nicotine gum and patches which are likely to lead to the same results as the researchers found with snuff.

Specifically, the researchers found that after looking at the medical records of 610,000 babies born in Sweden between 1999 and 2009 and comparing it to information gathered from pregnant women regarding cigarette and/or snuff use, found that babies of mothers who smoked during pregnancy were twice as likely to develop sleep apnea (stop breathing) as mothers who neither smoked nor used snuff. They also found that babies whose mothers chewed snuff during their pregnancy were twice as likely to develop sleep apnea as mother’s who smoked. Sleep apnea is believed to be the cause of at least some crib deaths. Sleep apnea is also sometimes accompanied by an irregular heartbeat. Smoking by pregnant women is also thought to cause premature delivery in some cases; an event that itself can lead to sleep apnea. The team didn’t find any significant differences between smoking and chewing snuff in causing early deliveries which means that switching from smoking to chewing snuff has no benefits for the baby. It does reduce lung problems for the mothers however.

Possibly making the situation worse is the fact that many doctors recommend either snuff or nicotine gum to reduce the impact of smoking on unborn children; now however, it appears that practice will have to stop, leaving pregnant women little choice but to either stop smoking or endanger their baby.

The research team suggests that pregnant women (and their doctors) be made aware of their findings as soon as possible so that they can make more informed choices in the future.

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