Newly published Avera study reveals new details about SIDS risks

A new study authored by an Avera Health researcher has shed new light on the risks of smoking and drinking during pregnancy.

The study, published Monday in eClinicalMedicine, found smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol during pregnancy significantly increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.

Dr. Amy Elliott, the Chief Clinical Research Officer of the Avera Center for Pediatric and Community Research in Sioux Falls, is the corresponding and co-first author of the study. She said while past studies have looked into the risk caused by smoking alone or drinking alone during pregnancy, this is the first large-scale study looking into both factors together.

“Our major finding was that if women drink and smoke beyond the first trimester of pregnancy, risk for SIDS goes up by almost 12 times,” Elliott said.

Elliot said both behaviors are dangerous to unborn infants, but combined, have a "synergistic effect" upon risk for SIDS.

The "Safe Passage Study" followed over 10,000 women from five states, two American Indian Reservations, and two sites in South Africa. The subjects were followed from pregnancy through a year after delivery.

“The major public health message to come out of this study should be a strong warning against drinking alcohol and/or smoking cigarettes during pregnancy – especially after the first trimester,” Elliott said.

Elliot added the study also should not be construed to mean that every mother whose baby dies of SIDS drank and/or smoked during pregnancy.

There are 3.5 million live births per year in the United States, and approximately 2,500 infants die of SIDS each year.

Hannah Kinney, MD, of Boston Children’s Hospital, was also a co-first author in the study. You can find the full study here.