FRIDAY, Jan. 17, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of having a baby with a cleft lip and cleft palate, the U.S. Surgeon General confirms in a new report.
Each year in the United States, more than 7,000 babies are born with cleft lip or cleft palate and smoking increases the risk by 30 percent to 50 percent, according to the new report. It was released Friday to mark of the 50th anniversary of the landmark Surgeon General's report about death and disease caused by smoking.
A cleft lip occurs when a baby's upper lip doesn't form completely and has an opening in it. A cleft palate occurs when the roof of the mouth doesn't form completely and has an opening in it. Both of these birth defects cause feeding problems, and may lead to ear infections, hearing problems, difficulty speaking and dental problems, according to the March of Dimes.
The new report also said that smoking causes about 1,000 infant deaths in the United States each year. Of those, 40 percent are classified as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Smoking during pregnancy is also linked with preterm birth and stillbirth.
About 23 percent of American women smoke while pregnant. This new report offers a number of reasons why women should quit smoking.
"We now have confirmation that smoking during pregnancy can damage the health of both mothers and babies," Dr. Edward McCabe, chief medical officer at the March of Dimes, said in a news release from the group.
"By quitting smoking before or during pregnancy, a woman will not only improve her own health; she may save her baby from being born too small and with a serious, disfiguring birth defect," he added.
"Smoking during pregnancy exposes the baby to dangerous chemicals such as nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar. These chemicals can reduce how much oxygen the baby gets, affecting the baby's growth and development," McCabe explained.
The U.S. Office on Women's Health has more about smoking and how to quit.