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Smoking Adds to Social Inequalities in Stillbirth Rates

Helping moms quit could reduce both stillbirths and infant deaths significantly

FRIDAY, Oct. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Smoking during pregnancy accounts for 38 percent of the social inequality in the rate of stillbirths, and 31 percent of infant death inequality, according to a study published online on Oct. 1 in BMJ.

Ron Gray, of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, and colleagues analyzed hospital records for 529,317 singleton live births and 2,699 stillbirths in Scotland from 1994 to 2003 to assess the contribution of smoking to social inequalities in stillbirths and infant deaths.

When the researchers compared the rate of stillbirths across different socioeconomic levels, they found that the higher socioeconomic group had a stillbirth rate of 3.8 per 1,000 compared to 5.9 per 1,000 for the lower socioeconomic group, and that the infant death rates were 3.2 and 5.4 per 1,000, respectively. Smoking during pregnancy played a significant part in the inequality underlying stillbirths and infant deaths, the investigators found, accounting for 38 and 31 percent, respectively.

"Both tackling smoking during pregnancy and reducing infants' exposure to tobacco smoke in the postnatal environment may help to reduce stillbirths and infant deaths overall and to reduce the socioeconomic inequalities in stillbirths and infant deaths perhaps by as much as 30 to 40 percent," the authors write. "However, action on smoking on its own is unlikely to be sufficient and other measures to improve the social circumstances, social support, and health of mothers and infants are needed."

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