It's sad but true: one in 10 Canadian women smoke while pregnant, surveys show. And up to 30% of women who smoke continue doing so after getting pregnant.
Which is why it's so important for websites like Pregnets to exist. Pregnets, which stands for Prevention of Gestational and Neonatal Exposure to Tobacco Smoke, is a new site developed by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto that focuses on building a community of support with other women through the use of an online discussion board.
Dr. Peter Shelby, clinical director of CAMH's addictions program, told The Canadian Press that "there is no safe amount of smoke exposure while pregnant." He explains that "the risk to the fetus is an immediate risk. They're much more likely to be premature, likely what we call small for gestational age, and then they have a higher risk of things like sudden infant death syndrome and upper respiratory tract infections."
Even successful births may lead to children who are more likely to develop behavioural problems and are at increased risk for obesity in adolescence, according to studies. Pregnets hopes to help smoking women quit once they become pregnant:
Our goal is to reduce smoking in pregnant and postpartum women by increasing their capacity to quit and stay quit using a woman centred model of care. The Pregnets website hosts the most up-to-date information on smoking cessation practices for pregnant and postpartum women, a toolkit for health care providers, an anonymous Online Discussion Board, and a personalized plan for quitting or reducing smoking. The Pregnets toolkit has been developed for health care providers, educators and researchers and provides the essential components to address smoking reduction and cessation among pregnant and postpartum women.
The website was created with funding from Echo: Improving Women's Health in Ontario, an agency of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
Unfortunately Pregnets is so far a ghost town: the "most helpful member" has only assisted two other people, and they last logged in July 26.