Nicotine patch ok for pregnancy
New York - The nicotine patch, known to be an effective stop-smoking aid, may also be safely used by expectant mothers, according to the preliminary results of a small study.
The study was funded by one of the makers of the nicotine patch, Elan Pharmaceutical Corporation of Athlone, Ireland.
"The nicotine patch seems to be both safe for the foetus and effective for helping the mother stop smoking during pregnancy," lead researcher Dr Paul Ogburn, Jr of the State University of New York at Stony Brook said. He presented his findings on Thursday at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine's annual meeting held in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The effects of the nicotine patch during pregnancy were previously unknown. A disclaimer on the patch's packaging state that the manufacturer cannot guarantee its safety when used during pregnancy, Ogburn noted.
He and his colleagues investigated the safety of the patch in a study of 21 pregnant women who continued to smoke more than 15 cigarettes per day into their third trimester. The women received nicotine patch therapy for a period of eight weeks, returning every week for ultrasound evaluations of their foetus' weight and well-being.
The foetuses were healthy and grew normally, according to Ogburn's team. Babies were born at about 36 to 41 weeks' gestation, similar to the normal 40-week full-term pregnancy, and all had normal birth weights.
And eight mothers (38 percent) had quit smoking by the end of the study period, in comparison to about five percent to 32 percent of mothers in similar studies, the researchers report.
However, the study did not evaluate whether exposure to the nicotine patch in the womb had any long-term effects on the behaviour or mental development of the children.
In light of the findings, "when women are unable to stop smoking in pregnancy using willpower alone, nicotine patch therapy, used with counselling, may be safely recommended to assist them in stopping smoking," Ogburn stated.
Smoking during pregnancy is known to increase an infant's risk of low birth weight. It may also cause cleft lip or cleft palate, and is a risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome (Sids), previous study findings show.