This may give you new motivation to quit, if you're thinking about having a baby.
A new study presented to the American Heart Association this week shows that smoking during pregnancy can trigger birth defects. In fact, the damage can be done even before the woman knows she is pregnant.
The study of more than a thousand babies and their parents found that women who smoked in the month prior to conception and through the end of the first trimester were 60 percent more likely to have babies with congenital heart defects than women who had never smoked.
The heart's basic structure is formed soon after conception so researchers say what we learn from this study is that women who would like to get pregnant need to quit at least six weeks before they conceive.
About 36,000 babies are born with a heart defect each year. Defects range from holes between chambers of the heart to absence of entire chambers or heart valves. That 60 percent figure held true even if the women had taken prenatal vitamins and limited alcohol consumption, regardless of age or race.
Five hundred and sixty-six infants with a congenital heart defect and 491 infants without were involved in this study. The study led was presented to the American Heart Association's scientific sessions in Chicago this week.