New research shows that white women are significantly more likely to smoke cigarettes during pregnancy compared to pregnant black or Hispanic women, according to a government report.
The study, conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), found that 21.8 percent of pregnant white women between the ages of 15 to 44 smoked cigarettes compared to 14.2 percent among black women and 6.5 percent among Hispanic women in the same age range.
Experts say that mothers who smoke during pregnancy have a greater risk for miscarriage or delivering a stillbirth and will have children who are more likely to be born prematurely, have defects and a low birth rate. Chemicals in cigarettes can also get transferred to the growing fetus to cause additional harm.
However black women were found to have the highest rates of illicit drug use during pregnancy at 7.7 percent followed by white women at 4.4 percent and Hispanic women at 3.1 percent.
Illegal drug use during pregnancy raises the risk of birth defects, babies being born premature or underweight and stillborn births.
Alcohol use during pregnancy was about the same for black and white women with 12.8 percent black, 12.2 percent of white and 7.4 percent of Hispanic women drinking during pregnancy.
Drinking alcohol, even just one to two drinks a day, during pregnancy may negatively affect a child’s birth weight, attention, behavior and IQ, and increase the risk of the child developing fetal alcohol syndrome, the greatest preventable cause of intellectual disability in children.
The latest statistics were based on national surveys from 2002 to 2010 on drug use and health. Researcher had interviewed more than 67,000 people across the country.
"When pregnant women use alcohol, tobacco, or illicit substances they are risking health problems for themselves and poor birth outcomes for their babies," Pamela Hyde, an administrator at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, said in a government news release.
"Pregnant women of different races and ethnicities may have diverse patterns of substance abuse. It is essential that we use the findings from this report to develop better ways of getting this key message out to every segment of our community so that no woman or child is endangered by substance use and abuse," Hyde added.