SEATTLE– If no woman smoked during pregnancy, it would save 800 lives a year. That’s one finding from a unique collaboration between Seattle Children’s Hospital and Microsoft.
While it’s likely no surprise that pregnant women shouldn’t smoke, we now know just how dangerous a single cigarette is to an unborn baby.
Dr. Tatiana Anderson is a lead author of the study from the Seattle Children’s Research Institute.
"Any smoking, any amount of smoking, even just one cigarette can double your chances of a sudden, unexpected infant death," Anderson said.
It’s a stunning finding from research that harnessed the medical expertise at Seattle Children’s and the data science at Microsoft. Their collaboration was inspired by a very personal story.
Microsoft’s Chief Data Analytics Officer John Kahan and his wife Heather lost their son Aaron to SIDS. The Kahans raise money and awareness, and nearly two years ago, some of John’s employees volunteered to help, too.
They accessed the public database at the Centers for Disease Control, which turned out to be a treasure trove of data from 20 million births in the U.S. It includes every child born between 2007 and 2011, the largest population ever studied.
On Monday, they published their first findings in the journal Pediatrics.
"It’s very difficult to quit smoking. But I think one of the insights is that every cigarette counts," said Juan Lavista, Microsoft’s Senior Director of Data Science. "So even if they can reduce, it will still be helpful. Quitting is much better, but reducing still helps."
For women who kept smoking during pregnancy, quitting by the third trimester decreased the SIDS risk by 12 percent. Quitting altogether was associated with a 23 percent risk reduction. They also found women who smoked in the three months before becoming pregnant were at higher risk.
"If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, you need to quit before you actually become pregnant," said Anderson.
Microsoft and Seattle Children’s are also looking at other connections to sudden infant death, including prenatal care and how SIDS is different across states.