Nicotine gum has benefits in pregnant smokers

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Chewing nicotine gum may not help pregnant women stop smoking, but it may help them cut back on the number of cigarettes they smoke each day and this may cut their risk of having a premature baby or a low-birthweight baby, US researchers report.

In the study, 194 pregnant smokers were randomized to use nicotine gum or placebo gum for 6 weeks, followed by a 6-week taper period. All of the women also received individual smoking cessation counseling. Women who were unable to quit smoking were told that they should still try to reduce the number of cigarettes smoked per day, substituting the gum as needed.

Quit rates were not significantly different between the two groups, Dr. Cheryl Oncken from University of Connecticut School of Medicine in Farmington, and associates found.

However, with nicotine gum, the number of cigarettes smoked fell by 5.7 per day, on average, whereas with placebo, the reduction was just 3.5 cigarettes per day.

Moreover, infants of women who chewed nicotine gum rather than placebo gum weighed significantly more at birth and were born closer to term. Smoking cigarettes raises the risk of having a low-birthweight baby and delivering prematurely.

Despite the findings, Oncken and colleagues recommend against using the gum on a regular basis in pregnant smokers as there is evidence from animal studies that nicotine exposure causes cellular abnormalities that may increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Nicotine gum and other nicotine-replacement products have not been approved for use in pregnant women.

SOURCE: Obstetrics and Gynecology, October 2008.