Objective: To examine the relationship between trauma history, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), coping, and smoking in a diverse sample of pregnant women, some of whom are active smokers.
Design: Secondary analysis from a prospective study on PTSD and pregnancy outcomes.
Setting: Maternity clinics at three health systems in the midwestern United States.
Participants: Women age 18 or older (1,547) interviewed at gestational age fewer than 28 weeks.
Methods: Participants were classified at nonsmokers, quitters (stopped smoking during pregnancy), and pregnancy smokers. Demographic, trauma, and pregnancy factors, substance use, and use of tobacco to cope were compared across groups. Logistic regression assessed the influence of these factors on being a smoker versus a nonsmoker and a quitter versus a pregnancy smoker.
Results: Smokers differed from nonsmokers on all demographic risk factors (being African American, being pregnant as a teen, having lower income and less education, and living in high-crime areas), had higher rates of current and lifetime PTSD, and were more likely to report abuse as their worst trauma. Pregnancy smokers had lower levels of education, were more likely to classify their worst trauma as “extremely troubling,” and were more likely to exhibit PTSD hyperarousal symptoms. In regression models, smoking “to cope with emotions and problems” doubled the odds of continuing to smoke while pregnant even after accounting for several relevant risk factors.
Conclusion: Smoking behavior in pregnancy may be influenced by the need to cope with abuse-related PTSD symptoms. Clinicians should consider using trauma-informed interventions when working with tobacco-using pregnant women.