Smoking and Drinking Increase Chances for SIDS
March 10, 2020
A recent study shows that infants who are exposed prenatally to cigarettes and alcohol have a far greater risk for SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome, than infants who have no exposure. SIDS is a major public health issue on a worldwide scale. The study’s results show that by managing modifiable risk factors, such as smoking and drinking, tragic cases of the fatal syndrome can be prevented.
SIDS is the leading cause of death for infants in the United States – and yet the condition is still not completely understood. Though the exact causes of sudden infant death syndrome are not known, many clinicians believe it has to do with problems with low levels of oxygen in the blood or a buildup of carbon dioxide in the baby’s system. Safe sleep campaigns have tried to tackle this issue by promoting that babies sleep on their backs on firm surfaces free from soft bedding, blankets, pillows, toys, or bumpers, but still as many as 2,000 infants die from the syndrome every year.
SIDS is the unexplained death of a seemingly healthy baby that is less than one-year old – and most often, it happens when the child is sleeping. There are a few risk factors that have been linked to SIDS, such as:
- Respiratory infections. Several infants who die from SIDS recently had colds, contributing to their general breathing and respiratory problems,
- Low birth weight. Infants with low birth weights or who are premature face greater risks for incomplete brain development, which increases their chances for having less control over breathing and heart rates, and:
- Brain defects that affect the portion of the brain that regulates and controls arousal from sleep and breathing.
Doctors tell pregnant women to avoid smoking and drinking, but some may not know just how serious the consequences can be. For example, one study found that drinking during the first trimester increases the risk for SIDS eight-fold. This most recent study involved more than 10,000 women and evaluated nearly 12,000 total pregnancies. Known as the “Safe Passage Study,” researchers conducted follow-ups with participants for a year after they gave birth. Researchers found that infants who were exposed to tobacco and alcohol prenatally – especially those exposed beyond just the first trimester – faced substantially higher risks for SIDS than infants who had zero exposure.
Infants exposed to tobacco and alcohol beyond the first trimester of pregnancy were twelve times more likely to develop SIDS than infants who were not exposed at all or who were only exposed to tobacco and alcohol during the first trimester of the pregnancy. Researchers noted that dual exposure (by smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol) created the most significant risk increase to the infant. The results of the study highlight several important issues when it comes to better understanding SIDS as well as how to limit some of its risks.
One way to positively impact the incident rate of SIDS is to screen pregnant women, or women who are planning to become pregnant, for substance use and to intervene early. Limiting rates of substance use, alcohol consumption, and smoking among pregnant women is one of the most promising ways to limit the number of SIDS deaths that occur every year – but if a pregnant woman is addicted to alcohol or tobacco, she may need professional help in order to quit safely and responsibly. If you are a pregnant and you have questions about limiting your infant’s chances for developing SIDS, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider.
Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Representing Injured Individuals Since 1947
If you have a legal question or concern, please contact our Philadelphia personal injury attorneys at Galfand Berger. With offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.