Your bad habit could kill your baby

Snus may have a risk of stillbirth on par with women who smoke cigarettes. Experts say this should serve as a warning to women who are or may become pregnant.

Snus, also called moist snuff, is different from other smokeless tobacco products because it is "spitless" and has lower levels of toxins.

Snus is generally thought to be less harmful than cigarettes as far as the risks of heart disease and cancer, and the product has been advocated as a "socially acceptable" way for smokers to get their nicotine fix - and as a way to help them cut down on cigarettes.

Smoking during pregnancy is well-known to carry risks, including elevated odds of miscarriage, low birth weight and stillbirth.

Much less has been known about the potential harms of using snus during pregnancy. But a study published earlier this year found that women who used snus during pregnancy had a higher risk of preterm delivery than those who used no tobacco products.

For the current study, published in the journal Epidemiology, the Swedish team used a national birth register with information on nearly 611,000 women who were pregnant between 1999 and 2006. Of these, 58,502 were tobacco smokers and 7,629 used snus.

Overall, 1,926 of the women in the register had a stillbirth. (Stillbirth generally refers to a pregnancy loss after the 20th week; but in this database, it was defined as a pregnancy loss after at the 28th week or later.)

Although snus may appeal to pregnant women who are trying to avoid cigarettes, "using moist snuff is not a safe way to quit smoking when you are pregnant," said lead researcher Dr Anna-Karin Wikstrom.

The mechanism by which snus might affect stillbirth is not fully clear. Research has suggested that smoking contributes to stillbirth mainly by impairing foetal growth, which may be a product of the carbon monoxide, nicotine and other toxins in tobacco smoke.

What are your thoughts on using any form of tobacco while pregnant?
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