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Prenatal Alcohol Consumption and Smoking are the Biggest Risk Factors for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

A new study showed that mothers who drink and smoke in the first trimester during pregnancy give birth to children who were at high risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The risk is 12-fold higher in the mother who smokes, and drinks as compared to those who don’t in the first trimester of pregnancy. National Institutes of Health provided funding for this study.

Unexplained, the sudden death of an infant under the age of one year is known as SIDS. It was revealed by many studies that risk is increased when the mother is drinking heavily in pregnancy. Other studies showed that prenatal exposure to smoking also increased the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

The study funded by NIH showed that how the increased risk is linked to timing and the amount of tobacco consumption and alcohol drinking during the pregnancy. The report of the study appeared in the journal Eclinical Medicine by LANCET.

Amy J. Elliot who is the first author of the Avera Heath center for Pediatric and Community Research in Sioux Falls in South Dakota stated that this is the first prospective study conducted at large scale for checking the association between prenatal tobacco and alcohol exposure and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) risk.

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The findings of the study showed that combined exposure to alcohol and tobacco during the pregnancy synergistically increased the risk of SIDS. The risk is lower in mothers who have signal exposure from both tobacco or Alcohol.

For the conduction of the study, the prenatal alcohol in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and Stillbirth (PASS) Network is developed across the U.S. and South Africa by a team of researchers. 1200 pregnancies have been observed from the different regions of the U.S. and South Africa between the years 2007 and 2015.

The sites for the study were chosen based on high rate prenatal alcohol consumption and SIDS including the populations where socioeconomic and ethnic inequalities in the SIDS are not studied.

The outcomes of one-year pregnancies were observed by the researchers. It was found that 66 infants died at that time, out of 66, 28 died due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and 38 died due to known causes. The synergistic effect of alcohol drinking and tobacco consumption during pregnancy increased the risk of SIDS by 12-fold.

While the risk of SIDS increases to fivefold in the infants whose mothers smoked beyond the first trimester and this risk increased to four-fold in the infants whose mothers consumed alcohol beyond the first trimester. The comparison is made with the unexposed mothers who didn’t use tobacco and Alcohol and to those who quit smoking and Alcohol drinking at the end of the first trimester.

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Hannah C. Kinney, the co-first author of the Department of Pathology at the Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard School of Medicine said that the new information about the dual exposure of smoking and drinking during the pregnancy was provided by The Safe Passage Study.

Both these are risk factors for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) among infants who are under one year. The findings support the recent recommendation of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Surgeon General that to avoid Alcohol and smoking during the pregnancy, as it increases the risk of infant mortality.

It was stated by the leaders of NIH institutes in a joint statement that these findings still can provide us with more information about the outcomes of postnatal health if the mother is exposed to prenatal smoking and alcohol and drinking. The women when knowing about their pregnancy quit smoking and drinking.

There should be a strong plan for screening the substances that use in early pregnancy and the interventions during this period. There should be a proper system for awareness among the public regarding the avoidance of Alcohol drinking and smoking during and before planning the pregnancy.



Areeba Hussain

The author is a fulltime medical and healthcare writer. She graduated in Medical Microbiology and Immunology with distinction. Her areas of prime interest are medicine, medical technology, disease awareness, and research analysis. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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