CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Getting pregnant women to stop smoking is just as important as getting them to stop using alcohol and illicit drugs, a researcher and psychologist told health-care providers Friday morning.
Beth Bailey, a psychologist who serves as program director for the Tennessee Intervention for Pregnant Smokers, said doctors sometimes tend to prioritize having pregnant women stop using harder drugs and alcohol before they stop smoking.
"What's important to recognize is that tobacco is as dangerous as these other substances," Bailey said.
Bailey was one of several speakers at the 2013 Perinatal Summit, sponsored by the West Virginia Perinatal Partnership and Charleston Area Medical Center's Health Education and Research Institute. The annual event took place Friday at the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center of WVU Charleston.
Bailey said health-care providers should include tobacco in the list of drugs that women should not use while pregnant.
People who smoke tend to do so continuously, she said. There are very few casual smokers.
Smoking while pregnant can lead to low birth weight in babies, miscarriages and preterm birth. There's also an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome and language delays in children.
While there's no safe amount of smoking for pregnant women, the more they smoke, the worse the outcomes for their babies, she said.
Bailey's TIPS program serves Tennessee's Appalachian region, where about 30 percent of pregnant women smoke, she said.