One-third of SIDS deaths could be prevented if all pregnant women stopped smoking, say Australian researchers, arguing that healthcare providers need much more support and training in helping women quit.
They found that smoking doubles the risk of having a low birth weight baby, a miscarriage or a pre-term birth, and triples the rate of SIDS - and if women are not able to give up entirely, they need to cut their smoking by half to achieve any benefit for themselves and their baby.
"Educating people on how their babies should sleep has reduced SIDS deaths by 70 per cent since 1989, however last year 158 babies still died from SIDS," said Dorothy Ford from SIDS Australia.
"There could be a significant further reduction in deaths if all women stopped smoking."
Dr Walsh and colleagues found that while health care givers were "well placed to inform and influence pregnant smokers to quit," and that "high-quality interventions" could help women to quit, only a minority of pregnant smokers were counselled.
However Dr Annabelle Chan of the South Australian Department of Human Services emphasised that the job of getting people to quit was "difficult", pointing out that only 8 per cent more women gave up as a result of the quit programs than would have given up anyway.
She said it was therefore important that as many women as possible were encouraged to quit, and that health care givers should focus on the most effective interventions.