Half of Pregnant Women Are Passive Smokers

Hands on Pregnant Belly with Visible Belly ButtonThe negative health effects of smoking during pregnancy are well known. Secondhand smoke, or passive smoking, also harms a developing baby. Unfortunately, a new study published in the journal Science of the Total Environment found that 55 percent of non-smoking pregnant women in Spain are passive smokers largely because a member of the household, usually an intimate partner, smokes in the home.

Passive smoking is the inhalation of cigarette smoke by an individual other than the active smoker. Exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk of disease, disability, and death in non-smokers.

A recent study published in the journal Tobacco Control, a journal of the BMJ, found that passive smoking by pregnant women increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, and ectopic pregnancy.

States researcher Juanjo Aurrekoetxea of the UPV/EHU’s department of Preventative Medicine and Public Health:

“Tobacco smoke has been found to have a detrimental effect on the foetus when pregnant women are under the effect of it. Passive tobacco increases the risk of miscarriage. Nevertheless, the problem mainly affects the child’s development; they tend to be smaller at birth and have lower cognitive development. In addition, and although to a lesser extent, these infants have a greater sudden death rate, and a greater risk of suffering cancer and respiratory disease in childhood as well.”

Despite the evidence that secondhand smoke negative affects the health of mother and unborn baby, over half of pregnant women continue to passively smoke.


For the present study, the researchers studied 1,783 women by measuring cotinine levels in their urine. Cotinine is a metabolite of nicotine, one of the main chemical components of tobacco smoke.

Explains Aurrekoetxea:

“Nicotine is not toxic for the body; it creates an addiction, but it is not particularly harmful. However, as it appears in high doses in tobacco, it is usually used as a marker to monitor tobacco consumption. In fact, when cotinine appears in the blood or urine, it indicates that there has been significant consumption of tobacco or passive exposure to it.”


The researchers also interviewed the women and determined that the home is the main source of secondhand smoke for pregnant women.

Stress Aurrekoetxea:

“The greatest exposure happens when the woman’s partner smokes at home …. the home is the main source of exposure to tobacco smoke. People everywhere are saying tobacco is bad and that passive exposure is also bad, but people still fail to take the necessary measures not to smoke, or not to force pregnant women to breathe tobacco smoke either.”

Another recent study concluded that thirdhand smoke is also linked to several adverse health effects including liver, lung, and skin problems.


Factors associated with second-hand smoke exposure in non-smoking pregnant women in Spain: Self-reported exposure and urinary cotinine levels:
Half of pregnant women are passive smokers, due to their partners:

Image Credits

Hands on Pregnant Belly with Visible Belly Button:

Written by Heather

Heather is a writer, librarian, linguist, wife, homemaker, homeschooler, and mother.

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