Mayo Clinic Study Finds Nicotine Patches Safe And Effective For Use By Pregnant Women
"This is an option we feel confident recommending to pregnant women who are smoking and are unable to stop," say Paul Ogburn, MD, a Mayo Clinic obstetrician/gynecologist and Richard Hurt, MD, director of the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center. "It is important, however, that women do this only with the approval and supervision of their physician."
Maternal smoking is known to increase the risk of stillborn birth as well as infant death after delivery. Smoking also has been linked to other pregnancy complications including restriction of fetal growth, spontaneous abortion, placenta previa and premature birth.
According to estimates from the United States Department of Health and Human Services, 9,600 infant deaths occur each year in the United States as a result of smoking during pregnancy. The cost to the healthcare system of smoking-attributable complicated births in 1995 was estimated to be $2 billion.
"In this study we found that the level of nicotine delivered by the patch was no greater than the amount delivered by a cigarette," says Dr Ogburn. "But because the delivery of the nicotine is steady instead of the intermittent high doses that occur during smoking, it caused less distress for the fetus. The nicotine patch also eliminates the fetus' exposure to carbon monoxide and many other toxins that can contribute to the complications of pregnancy caused by cigarettes."
"This study is the longest and most extensive study to date on the effect of nicotine patches on both the mother and the fetus," says Dr. Hurt. "We believe that limiting the fetus' exposure to a single toxin of known quantity is an improvement over the multiple toxins delivered by cigarette smoking. This could be a significant step in helping women stop smoking and improving their own health as well as the health of their babies.
The study reported in January 2000 followed 21 women in their third trimester of pregnancy who used the nicotine patch for four days in a special care hospital unit; most of the women were able to stop smoking or reduce smoking for the remaining time of pregnancy.