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Pregnant Smokers Taking a Big Risk

They're creating a smoke-filled womb

Nationwide, the number of expectant women who smoke has dropped from 18 percent in 1990 to 11 percent in 1998, but child health experts say that any smoking during pregnancy jeopardizes a child both before and after birth.

For the eighth time in nine years, Pittsburgh has taken the dubious prize as the American city with the highest rate of pregnant smokers. Compared to Miami, where only 2 percent of expectant mothers smoke, almost 25 percent of the pregnant women in Pittsburgh smoke.

When a pregnant woman smokes, two of the major toxins from cigarette smoke -- nicotine and carbon monoxide -- pass through the placenta to the fetus. Smoking increases the chance of miscarriages, stillbirths, premature deliveries, low-birthweight babies and sudden infant death among newborns.

A feature from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette warns that smoking while pregnant can affect children years later through increased rates of asthma, along with learning and behavior problems. The BBC News adds that smokers' babies also face a major risk of developing meningitis during childhood.

A second story from the Post-Gazette explains the difficulty that many women have quitting cigarettes during pregnancy and describes methods that have helped some stop.

More information on smoking during pregnancy is available from chem-tox.com, which collects research citing the health effects of chemical toxins.

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