I’m really conflicted about this study, to be honest. I was a smoker for years, and then I got pregnant, and I wasn’t a smoker anymore. Was it easy to quit? No. But was it worth it to insure my baby was born healthy? Absolutely. I get that quitting smoking is incredibly difficult. On the one hand, this study about pregnant smokers and how they can reduce the damage done to their babies is important. But on the other hand, we should be finding ways to help pregnant women stop smoking altogether.

The study on pregnant smokers was published by the American Thoracic Society. Researchers found that taking a vitamin C supplement was shown to reduce the damage done to babies whose mothers smoked during pregnancy.

A previous study on vitamin C and pregnant smokers showed that the supplement could improve a newborn’s pulmonary function. This new study focused on babies at 3 and 12 months of age. Researchers measured the forced expiratory flows (FEF) of babies born to 252 mothers who smoked. The randomized trial split mothers into two groups: half got 500 mg of supplemental vitamin C everyday, and the other half got a placebo. Both groups took the same prenatal vitamin. The pregnant smokers were encouraged to quit throughout their pregnancies, and smoked an average of seven cigarettes a day.

Researchers performed FEFs in this study for a very specific reason. Lead study author Cynthia McEvoy, MD is a professor of pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, at the Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine and OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. She says, “We performed FEFs in this study because they provide a more direct measurement of actual air way function, and are more predictive of future disease.” Because babies aren’t great at following directions, the FEFs allowed researchers to results similar to what they’d get using traditional spirometry testing.

At 3 months and 12 months, the babies showed significant difference in lung function between the two groups of women.

No significant difference was found between the two groups of babies when it came to gestational age, method of delivery, or birth weight. And researchers aren’t exactly sure why vitamin C has this protective effect on lungs. The research into this will continue. This particular study will follow children through the age of 6 to see if the supplement has a long-term effect on childhood respiratory health.

As promising as these results are, the focus will remain on getting pregnant smokers to sop smoking. That is, by far, the safest option.

(Image: iStock/Highwaystarz-Photography)