Ilana Chertok, associate professor of nursing at West Virginia University, has been awarded a grant to study the effectiveness of smoking cessation programs aimed at expectant mothers in Monongalia and Preston counties. The grant, provided by the March of the Dimes Foundation, will fund a program to provide pregnant women with help to quit smoking. The program is called the “5A’s,” and aims to educate midwives with five steps: Ask, Advise, Assess, Assist and Arrange.
“Even if you have tried before and partially succeeded, there is more chance of you quitting the more you try,” Chertok said. “Pregnancy is a great time to stop smoking since pregnant women are more motivated to make positive changes.”
Chertok will also study the factors behind the high number of mothers who smoke during pregnancy. She has started enrolling expectant mothers into the program.
Compared to the national average of 14 percent, West Virginia has the highest percentage of mothers who smoke while pregnant: 32 percent.
There are a number of reasons why West Virginia’s smoking statistics are so high, Chertok said.
Some factors increase the a likelihood of smoking while pregnant such as not being married, having a lower level of formal education, being a WIC or Medicaid recipient and exposure to other smokers, she said.
“Smoking during pregnancy is one of the most modifiable risk factors associated with poor pregnancy outcomes,” she said.
The March of Dimes Foundation promotes the prevention of birth defects and other pregnancy related problems.
According to its research, smoking while pregnant can lead to a number of serious health risks for both the mother and unborn child.
“Research has found that smoking during pregnancy has been associated with decreased oxygen levels of the fetus, poor fetal growth including brain growth, increased risk of behavior and learning disabilities and general increased risk of infant illnesses, just to name some of the problems,” Chertok said.
The program has been adapted by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for use by trained health care providers caring for pregnant women.