Smoking in pregnancy tied to mental problems

Mental health problems, such as anxiety disorders and depression, are common in women who smoke during pregnancy and may be part of the reason they do so, researchers have found.

“Given the decades-long campaign to get women to stop smoking during pregnancy, the persistence of the problem is vexing,” lead investigator Dr. Renee D. Goodwin told Reuters Health. “The high rate of depression among nicotine-addicted pregnant women could shed new light on this persistent problem, and bring needed help to the women and their babies at risk.”

Goodwin and colleagues at Columbia University, New York, analyzed data based on interviews with 1516 women who took part in a survey involving alcohol use. All said they had been pregnant in the past year.

A total of 22 percent reported that they smoked cigarettes, and 12 percent were could be classified as being nicotine dependent, the team reports in the medical journal Obstetrics and Gynecology. Almost half of cigarette smokers (45 percent) had a mental disorder such as depression or panic disorder, as could 57 percent of those with nicotine dependence.

“Health professionals with pregnant patients who smoke, but can’t seem to quit, need to know that depression and anxiety might actually be the bigger problem standing in the way of their patients’ efforts to quit,” Goodwin said.

“And for them, some form of mental health treatment, such as behavioral or supportive therapy, in addition to a smoking cessation plan may be a much more effective treatment plan than a simple nicotine patch,” she concluded.

SOURCE: Obstetrics and Gynecology, April 2007.

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