July 24, 2001 11:00 pm

The Oregon Department of Human Resources is lauding the fact that the state is making headway in reducing tobacco use among expectant mothers.

A comparison of the states numbers with national statistics, however, should tell us that Oregon still has a long way to go

Data appearing in the Oregon Vital Statistics Annual Report for 1999 shows that fewer than one in six Oregon mothers reported using tobacco during pregnancy, a decline of 18.5 percent since 1995.

The bad news is that more women in Oregon smoked during pregnancy than in the nation as a whole (14.5 percent versus 12.6 percent).

Its hard to believe that any mother, concerned about the welfare of her unborn child, would consider smoking during pregnancy.

Smoking while pregnant is linked to premature labor and to breathing problems and fetal illness among infants. Smoking also accounts for 20 percent to 30 percent of low birthweights among babies, 14 percent of preterm deliveries and some 10 percent of all infant deaths. Babies are also more susceptible to contracting asthma if their mothers smoke.

Great strides have been made in the United States over the past decade in educating mothers about the risks of smoking during pregnancy. As a result, the number of mothers who smoke has declined by 34 percent nationally since 1990.

Thankfully, the Oregon Department of Human Services is not satisfied with the latest report. The Health Division is planning a program to work with health care providers to increase the use of interventions to help pregnant women stop smoking.

The hope is that some of the women who put away their cigarettes while pregnant will decide to kick the habit permanently.


Mothers should not only be aware of the risks of smoking while pregnant, but should understand the problems that can occur if they drink alcohol while waiting for their baby.

The issue is fairly simple. When a mother consumes alcohol, so does the baby. Some children develop fetal alcohol syndrome.

A child with fetal alcohol syndrome can be born small, can have problems eating, sleeping, seeing and hearing. A child can also have difficulty following directions and learning simple things. They can have a hard time paying attention in school, and can have trouble getting along with others or controlling themselves. They also can face continued medical care through their lives.

While not all mothers who drink have unhealthy babies, the risk is too great, and many doctors suggest that moms not drink alcohol at all during pregnancy.