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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU: Combined Prenatal Smoking and Drinking Greatly Increases SIDS Risk

Children born to mothers who both drank and smoked beyond the first trimester of pregnancy have a 12-fold increased risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) compared to those unexposed or only exposed in the first trimester of pregnancy, according to a new report co-authored by Boston University School of Public Health researchers.

The findings come from the first-of-its-kind Safe Passage Study, which is supported by the National Institutes of Health. The report is published in EclinicalMedicine, an online journal published by The Lancet.

SIDS is the sudden, unexplained death of an infant under one year of age. Many studies have shown that the risk of SIDS is increased by maternal smoking during pregnancy. Some studies have also found that prenatal alcohol exposure, particularly from heavy drinking during pregnancy, can increase SIDS risk.

“Our findings suggest that combined exposures to alcohol and tobacco have a synergistic effect on SIDS risk, given that dual exposure was associated with substantially higher risk than either exposure alone,” says the study’s first author, Dr. Amy J. Elliott of the Avera Health Center for Pediatric & Community Research.

“This study shows that those who drink higher quantities of alcohol also smoke more cigarettes per day and vice versa. It isn’t surprising that there is a synergist effect of dual exposure,” says senior author, Dr. Kimberly Ann Dukes, research associate professor of biostatistics and executive director of the Biostatistics and Epidemiology Data Analytics Center (BEDAC).

The findings point to the importance of “education and media campaigns for our schools, communities, and clinicians regarding abstinence of drinking and smoking during pregnancy,” she says.

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