Fewer moms-to-be smoking, study finds
SEATTLE -- Fewer women in Washington are smoking during pregnancy, and more are receiving adequate prenatal care, according to study released Monday.
But nearly one in seven Washington mothers-to-be smoked, the study said.
The nine-year "Right Start" study, released by Child Trends and Kids Count, found that Washington beat national averages in seven of eight indicators of the health of pregnant women and babies. The indicators include percentage of births to single mothers and teens, births to mothers with less than 12 years of education, and low birth weight and preterm deliveries.
Only in one category, the percentage of expectant moms who smoked, did Washington show higher numbers than the national average. The percentage in Washington dropped from 20.2 in 1990 to 14.6 in 1998; nationally, the percentage dropped from 18.4 to 12.9.
"It's the youngest mothers who smoke," said Richard Brandon, who directed the Washington state portion of the study. "We have to really target those anti-smoking efforts on teen mothers."
Although county-by-county statistics were not available Monday, Clark County traditionally has fared poorly in smoking studies.
Last year, a Washington Department of Health study said 18.6 percent of Clark County women smoked during their 1998 pregnancies.
Meanwhile, statistics from the Southwest Washington Health District showed the percentage of lower-income mothers who smoked rose from 32 percent to 35 percent between 1996 and 1999. The percentage of adults who smoked rose during the same period from 24 percent to 26 percent.
In the statewide study released Monday, 11 percent of births in Washington during 1998 were to teens, 2 percentage points less than the national average of 13 percent. The teen birth rate in Seattle was even lower, just 6 percent, compared with the study's 50-city average of 14.7 percent.
Generally, Brandon said, babies born in Washington are healthier than those born in other parts of the country, largely because the state has invested heavily in prenatal care since 1989. From 1990 to 1998, the number of pregnant women who received late or no prenatal care in the state fell from 5 percent to 3 percent.
The percentage of Washington babies weighing less than 51/2 pounds rose from 5.3 to 5.7 during the nine years but was still below the national average, which rose from 7 percent to 7.6 percent.
Slightly more pre-term babies, those delivered before the 38th week, were born in Washington -- about 9 percent in 1998. But that figure, too, was about two percentage points below the national average of 11.6 percent.
Brandon and Dr. Maxine Hayes, a pediatrician who is the state's health officer, attributed the improvement in prenatal care to a Medicaid program called First Steps, paid with federal money and matching grants from states.
In all, roughly the same number of children, 79,000, were born in Washington each year of the study.