Study sheds new light on the risks of smoking and drinking while pregnant

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (DAKOTA NEWS NOW) - A new study authored by an Avera Health Researcher sheds new light on the risks of smoking and drinking during pregnancy.

The study, published Monday, found doing both, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, during pregnancy significantly increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS.

That is when an infant dies of unknown causes.

For Danielle Krier, participating in the "Safe Passage Study" was about more than just herself.

"When I was asked to be a participant I immediately wanted to be involved," Krier said. "I know that any time you can be involved in something like this that this data is going to help people down the road."

She has two young children of her own and wants to help any parents prevent the tragedy of losing their child to SIDS.

"It's wonderful to know that there are people who are going to their doctors today finding out their pregnant for the first time, and that stuff that I participated in can help them, hopefully, have a healthier child down the road," Krier said.

Chief Clinical Research Officer Dr. Amy Elliott says while past studies have highlighted the risk of smoking or drinking during pregnancy, this is the first large-scale study looking into both factors together, focusing on the synergistic effect.

"By the time death happens it's too late for that family, so we really want to help prevent the number of families that have to go through this," Elliott said.

The major finding of the study shows that women who drink and smoke beyond the first trimester of pregnancy, causes the risk for SIDS to go up nearly 12 times.

"SIDS in many ways is a parent's worst nightmare, typically it happens after a sleep time period," Elliott said. "To help prevent these occurrences from happening, that's really the goal of SIDS research."

Director of Clinical Research Jyoti Angal says the research done in this study may be just the beginning of a bigger breakthrough.

"The important thing about research is being able to translate research into practice, so we really hope that the results from the study will open more conversations between patients and providers," Angal said.

The study followed more than 10,000 women from five states, two American-Indian Reservations, and two cities in South Africa.

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