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"In public health terms, these results are significant because one in five pregnant women smokes," said study author Anick Berard, a professor with the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Montreal.
"We already know that smoking during pregnancy increases the chances of miscarriage as well as low birth weight, premature birth and birth defects -- events that are linked to health problems in children," Berard said in a university news release.
However, the study authors added that pregnant women or those looking to become pregnant should check with their doctor before taking any medication.
The new study results will give pregnant women evidence-based options to quit smoking, Berard said. They'll "also give data to health care professionals for them to prescribe the right treatment while evaluating the risks and benefits associated with each pharmacological method," she said.
The study looked at nearly 1,300 pregnant women in Quebec. It found that 80 percent of pregnant women who used nicotine patches or Zyban (bupropion) were able to stop smoking. Even after they discontinued using the products, 68 percent of those who used nicotine patches and 60 percent of those who used Zyban did not start smoking again during or after pregnancy.
The findings also suggest that use of nicotine patches lowers the risk of premature birth and low birth weight, the researchers said.
"We already knew that quitting smoking during pregnancy was beneficial for mothers and children in the short and long term, but, to our knowledge, this study is one of a few to compare the effects of using nicotine patches and the drug Zyban during pregnancy on smoking cessation and the risks to the fetus," Berard said. "Our results are directly in-line with smoking cessation programs implemented in the general population."
Zyban works by reducing nicotine cravings and other withdrawal effects. Pregnant women or women hoping to become pregnant should consult their doctor before using this medication or any other smoking cessation method.
The study was published recently in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: University of Montreal, news release, July 19, 2016