Data suggests that most women quit smoking when pregnant, but a new federal report shows that one in 14 women still smokes while expecting. The habit is linked to health issues for both women and their infants, including low birthweight, preterm births and birth defects.
The report, based on national birth certificate data, shows that 7.2% of women in the United States who gave birth in 2016 smoked during their pregnancy. The report is the first to show data from all 50 states and Washington D.C.
The reported smoking rate among pregnant women is less than the one found in a 2011 report, where 10% of American women from 24 states reported smoking during the last three months of their pregnancy, and 55% of women said they quit during pregnancy.
Though smoking rates among pregnant women are around 7%, the researchers—from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention‘s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS)—found that smoking rates varied significantly from state to state. In West Virginia where the rate was highest, 25.1% of women reported smoking while pregnant. California had the lowest rate at 1.6%. (West Virginia has some of the highest rates of smokers in the country in general, and California reports some of the lowest rates.)
Smoking prevalence was lowest in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, Texas, Utah and D.C., which all had rates under 5%. The highest rates were in West Virginia, Kentucky, Montana, Vermont and Missouri, which all had rates above 15%. Overall, smoking was highest among women ages 20 to 24.
The figures may be an underestimate, since the data is based on women self-reporting their smoking habits during pregnancy. Women who smoke have a harder time getting pregnant in general, according to the CDC, and smoking during pregnancy has been linked to lung and brain tissue damage for infants.