A population-based hospital survey of 3628 women in the postpartum period was conducted in the Ottawa-Carleton region in 1983 to determine the prevalence of smoking before and during pregnancy, the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of women who smoke during pregnancy and the use of health care services by these women. Of the 3628 women 91% completed a full-length questionnaire and 4% completed a shorter questionnaire. Before pregnancy 37.4% of the women smoked cigarettes. Overall, 61.1% of the smokers changed their smoking habit: 31.1% stopped, 28.1% decreased the amount smoked and 2.0% increased the amount smoked. Two thirds of the women who stopped smoking did so as soon as they realized they were pregnant. Over 50% of teenagers, single women, women living common-law and women with less than a grade 11 education smoked after the 3rd month of pregnancy. The physician is in an ideal position to identify as soon as possible pregnant women who smoke and to initiate a health education program. Only a few women who smoked during pregnancy attended early prenatal classes. Physicians and class organizers must work to improve this situation if such classes are to have an impact on smoking during pregnancy.
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