Pregnant Teens are Smoking to Have Smaller Babies, Says New Study

The prospect of giving birth is frightening, especially when the pregnancy is unplanned and the expectant mother is little more than a child herself. Now, an anthropological study ten years in the making from Australian National University has found just how far some girls are willing to go to make the birthing experience less traumatic.

Associate professor and researcher Simone Dennis found that many pregnant teenage girls have turned to cigarettes while pregnant, believing that it would lead to smaller babies and subsequently less difficult deliveries. In some cases, the girls began smoking when they found out they were pregnant.

“I wouldn’t call it a trend,” Dennis said in an interview with Broadly, “But it was definitely common enough for me to pick it up as a pattern. In every place I went, I’d find at least a few girls talking about it.”

She continued: “Broadly speaking, these girls sat outside the middle classes, which is where anti-smoking legislation has been most successful. They were very young, aged between 16 to 19 years old. Most were not in full-time education or work, and they were in low socio-economic groupings.”

According to Dennis, “Most were scared of splitting or tearing. Quite a big proportion of them had older sisters who’d given birth, or friends, and women tend to talk in horror story terms about their birth experiences.” Most girls were also concerned that, after giving birth to a large baby, their vagina would never be the same again. “They were worried about not being able to present in the way they’d used to with men if they’d torn during birth.”

While, yes, smoking has been shown to lower birth weight, it also increases the risk of infant mortality by an estimated 40%, can contribute to labor complications, miscarriages, premature or still births, and respiratory problems during childhood.

In other words, please God stop doing this. Now.

[H/T: Broadly]

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