Low birth weight paradox

Pretty baby smiling

Low birth weight paradox

Unlike the previous posts (and most future ones), this paradox comes from statistical data and scientific background. Typically, the children of smokers are more likely to be born underweight than the children of non-smokers. That is why when you’re expecting, the doctors (and nurses) advise you to quit smoking. Research has also shown that low birth babies have a higher risk of child mortality. So far so good (or rather, bad).

The paradox arises that children of smokers with low birth weight have a lower risk of child mortality than children of non-smokers with low birth weight. Which leads us to a strange conclusion that it is better to smoke. Or does it?

Although this seems to be a conclusion to be drawn, this conclusion is nevertheless wrong. The reason is quite simple: there are numerous factors to low birth weight. To name but a few:

  1. Drugs and alcohol (which technically, is also a drug)
  2. Chronic diseases; like diabetes, heart conditions, kidney failure, etc.
  3. Infections; like rubella, toxoplasma, etc.
  4. Problems with the placenta; decreasing oxygen and blood supply
  5. Generally, lack of nutrition

Most of these affect the child more than smoking does.

As for the paradox, it remains a paradox only to an extent. Children of smokers with low birth weight would weigh more, and within the ‘normal’ range, if their mothers would not smoke. More importantly, the cause of their low weight is less dangerous than, say, infections or chronic disease. So although smoking is one of the causes of low birth weight, other causes are usually more damaging.

A moral point, as always: don’t smoke! Regardless of the above said, it remains a habit (not an addiction), which does more harm than brings good! I say this as a smoker, and I know that makes me a hypocrite.

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