Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Pregnant Teenagers and Teenage Mothers: How Much They Really Know about the Risks to Children's Health Associated with Smoking during and after Pregnancy?

Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Pregnant Teenagers and Teenage Mothers: How Much They Really Know about the Risks to Children's Health Associated with Smoking during and after Pregnancy?

Article excerpt

In the children of teenage mothers, prenatal and postnatal tobacco exposure has been associated with reduced birth weight, miscarriages, sudden infant death syndrome, asthma, and other respiratory problems. (1-4) Despite all the information available, some teenage mothers continue smoking during pregnancy; some expose babies to secondhand smoke. (5,6) Little is known about how much pregnant teenagers and teenage mothers understand about the risks associated with smoking during and after pregnancy.

During a school district citywide event for teenage mothers and pregnant teenagers (75% Hispanics) held in El Paso, TX, we asked teenage mothers (n = 98) and pregnant teenagers (n = 81) to respond to a brief questionnaire (n = 179) about their knowledge of the risks to their baby associated with smoking during and after pregnancy. The study's goals were to (1) determine whether respondents felt they were informed about risks, (2) identify the sources of information on smoking, and (3) determine how knowledgeable respondents were about risks of smoking during pregnancy and after pregnancy.

A total of 71 pregnant teenagers and 92 teenage mothers responded (87.6% and 94%, respectively) to the questionnaire. For 61 of the 71 pregnant teenagers, the current pregnancy was their first pregnancy; the teenage mothers had 1-4 children. The mean age of the pregnant teenagers was 16.4 years (SD = 1.35, range 13-19); the mean age of the teenage mothers was 17.0 (SD = 1.1, range 14-19).

Participants were classified as 58.9% (96/163) nonsmokers, 6.7% (11/163) experimenters, 0.6% (1/163) susceptibles, 25.8% (42/163) former smokers (might not smoke), 3.1% (5/163) regular smokers (regular smoker with more than 100 cigarettes smoked in their lifetime), and 2.5% (4/163) current smokers (current smoker with less than 100 cigarettes smoked in their lifetime). (7,8)

All pregnant teenagers declared not to be currently smoking. Of the total respondents, 38.7% (63/163) stated that somebody in their house was a current smoker.

Ninety-four percent (153/163) of the pregnant teenagers and teenage mothers declared that they were informed about the risks of smoking during and after pregnancy. Sources of information on smoking during and after pregnancy were from doctors (80.4%), books (43.8%), television (37.9%), school-specific programs (30.9%), relatives (9.2%), teachers (2%), health education programs outside of the school (2%), or by searching on the Internet (1%). Ten respondents (7 teenage mothers/3 pregnant teenagers) declared they were not informed about the risks associated with smoking during and after pregnancy.

Knowledge about exposure to smoking during and after pregnancy was assessed by 2 sets of 4 grouped questions, which are summarized in Table 1. Of the total 163 respondents, 54% (88) responded correctly to the first set of 4 questions (risks during pregnancy), and only 1 participant responded correctly to the second set of 4 questions (risks after pregnancy). There were no significant differences in the percentage of correctly answered questions between pregnant teenagers and teenage mothers.

The results indicate that messages about the risks of exposure to cigarette smoke during and after pregnancy are not well understood by teenage mothers and pregnant teenagers. These results suggest that primary care physicians, media, parents, relatives, schools, and health educators need to look for alternatives for improving communication to teenagers about the risks associated with smoking during and after pregnancy. …

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