In Kansas last year, more than 4,800 women smoked cigarettes during their pregnancies, according to a preliminary summary of birth statistics released Tuesday by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
The finding means that in 2013, about one in every eight births – 12.5 percent – involved mothers who smoked for at least three months shortly before or during their pregnancies.
“We can’t ignore that,” said Dr. Dennis Cooley, chair of the state’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Infant Mortality. “It’s an improvement over where we were the year before, but it’s still way too high.”
Nearly 5,500 women smoked during their pregnancies in 2012.
Smoking during pregnancy is known to increase the risk of stillbirths, premature births and underweight babies.
KDHE officials and child health advocates have set a goal of lowering the rate of mothers who smoke during pregnancy to no more than 1.4 percent by 2020.
“We need to focus more of our efforts on smoking mothers,” said Cooley, a practicing pediatrician who’s also a past president of the Kansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “And we need to focus those efforts on the areas where the data tells us have the highest rates.”
Other findings in the report:
“It’s encouraging to see that teen pregnancies are down, premature births are down, low birth-weight (babies) are down and prenatal care is up,” said Dan Partridge, director at the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department.
“These may seem like modest gains, but I think they show we’re moving in the right direction,” Partridge said. “We’re seeing improvements, but we still have a lot of work to do. We have to keep at it and, yes, the mothers’ smoking rate is far too high.”
The statistics will be included in the Kansas Annual Summary of Vital Statistics, which KDHE officials expect to release in September.