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Q: What kind of smoking-cessation help is advised for pregnant women?

A: The latest recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force advises clinicians to ask all pregnant women about tobacco use, advise them about quitting and provide them with behavioral interventions (such as support, education and counseling) to help them quit.

The group also concluded that current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of drug interventions for smoking cessation in pregnant women.

What is known is that smoking comes with multiple risks for both mother and baby. It raises the chances for miscarriage, premature births, birth defects and lower birth weights. It reduces oxygen supply to a developing fetus and can cause tissue damage, especially in the lung and brain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Not only that, but babies born to mothers who smoke while they're pregnant and exposed to secondhand smoke after birth are more likely to die of sudden infant death syndrome.

Still, about 7 percent of women who gave birth in the United States in 2016 reported smoking during pregnancy, with the highest smoking rate during pregnancy among women ages 20-24, according to the CDC.

A smoking-cessation program for pregnant women offered for the past several years through Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center in Coles County — Baby & Me Tobacco Free — focuses on education and counseling, with an added incentive of free diapers for a year for those who succeed.

CHARMAYNE CATRON, Sarah Bush Lincoln's wellness coordinator, said the program requires a referral from a health care provider and includes four sessions focusing on the risks of smoking during pregnancy and secondhand smoke, plus support and tips on how to quit successfully.

Participating pregnant women undergo a breath test once a month to verify that they're smoke-free, and provided they're no longer smoking, they can begin earning vouchers for free diapers by the third session, she said. After their babies are born, they continue earning monthly diaper vouchers if they continue to test smoke-free.

Double vouchers are provided when smoking partners of participating women also take part in the program and quit, Catron said.

A lot of pregnant women manage to quit on their own, without medication help, she said. Those who do want that kind of help quitting smoking are advised to consult their doctors, she said.