In what is likely the most disturbing teen trend we’ve ever reported about – and there have been quite a few – pregnant young girls in Australia are turning to smoking tobacco cigarettes to keep their babies’ weight low and make childbirth less painful.
The shocking finding that young Australian pregnant women are more terrified of childbirth pain than the serious adverse affects smoking during pregnancy can have on the fetus – including higher stillbirth rates and increased risk of childhood asthma and allergies – was revealed by a recently published 10-year national anthropological study led by Associate Professor Simone Dennis from the Australian National University. She found that girls as young as 16 are either taking up smoking or increasing their daily cigarette intake in an effort to have smaller babies, due to fears that their young bodies will not be able to handle childbirth.
Even more disturbing is the fact that the teen mothers-to-be were inspired to take on this practice by the health warnings on Australian cigarette packs, some of which state that ‘smoking while pregnant can reduce the weight of your baby’. Rather than being deterred by this, they decided to embrace smoking as a way of keeping their unborn babies’ weight low in hopes of a less painful childbirth. Studies show that smoking mothers are twice as likely as nonsmokers to have lower weight babies, about 200g lighter, on average.
Photo: Mass Public Health Blog
“They had read on packets that smoking can reduce the birth weight of your baby, which is obviously not how the public health message is intended to be taken,” Prof. Dennis told the New Zealand Herald. “They were scared because they were small. The worst thing that could happen to them was to have an enormous baby. Some were young, 16 or 17 years, and their overriding fear was ‘Oh my God, I’m going to have an enormous child’, so they were actively using cigarettes to medicate against that.”
“Some had even taken it up for the first time for that very reason, and some smoked harder, hoping the promise on the packet would come true. If you smoked more, you could make it better. I was really struck by that,” she added.
I couldn’t find exactly how many Australian pregnant women actually admitted to smoking for this very stupid reason, but I’m guessing it must have been a fairly significant number if Associate Professor Simone Dennis decided to include the trend in the findings of her study. And here I though teen trends couldn’t get more stupid than drinking hand sanitizer to get drunk and eating cotton balls to lose weight. This one takes the cake.