Pregnant teens who fear delivering big babies take up smoking to stunt growth: study

A dangerous trend in pregnant teens lighting up is emerging, as future Aussie young mums are taking on the deadly habit in a bid to give birth to smaller babies.

Pregnant teens who fear delivering large babies are turning to cigarettes to help reduce infant's size.

A 10-year Australian study revealed pregnant teens are more concerned about giving birth to a large child than the health implications cigarettes can cause, including higher miscarriage and stillbirth risks, problems with brain development, as well as asthma and allergies.

Associate Professor Simone Dennis, of the Australian National University, told the Daily Telegraph she was stunned to learn teen girls took a cue from warnings on cigarette packets that say smoking could cause small babies.

An Australian study shows pregnant teens are looking at warnings on cigarette packets as a message their babies could be born smaller if they smoke cigarettes. Picture: Quitnow.gov.au

“They had read on packets that smoking can reduce the birth weight of your baby, which is obviously not how the public health message is intended to be taken,” she said.

“They were scared because they were small. The worst thing that could happen to them was to have an enormous baby.

“Some were young, 16 or 17 years, and their overriding fear was ‘Oh my God, I’m going to have an enormous child’, so they were actively using cigarettes to medicate against that.”

The research showed some pregnant girls had taken up smoking specifically for pregnancy, while others smoked more regularly, Assoc Prof Dennis said.

“If you smoked more, you could make it better. I was really struck by that.”

A smaller baby is only one side effect of smoking. Mums also risk miscarriage, stillbirth, problems with brain development, asthma and allergies

Research shows pregnant Aussie women who smoked were twice as likely to give birth to babies weighting about 200g lighter than those born from non-smoking mums, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Smoking during pregnancy is less prominent in older women, with only 10 per cent of expectant mums over 30 years old lighting up, compared with 37 per cent aged less than 25 years old.