Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Education level and type of job play a strong role in whether a woman will smoke while she's pregnant, a study says.
Despite a sharp decline in recent years, 15 percent of Finnish women in early pregnancy still smoke, according to a study published this month in the journal Addiction. Within that group, 44 percent had compulsory schooling, while only 2 percent had college degrees.
"In line with the earlier studies, we observed that low educational level is strongly connected with smoking during pregnancy," Juho Härkönen, a researcher at University of Turku and study author, in a news release
Also, 13 percent of pregnant mothers with a combined secondary level of general and vocational degrees along with 9 percent of women with general secondary level degrees.
"Smoking was more common also among those with a polytechnic degree -- 5 percent -- than among those with a university degree -- 2 percent. According to our interpretation, these differences might be explained by the fact that deciding to start smoking and the social acceptability related to it varies between vocational and generalist schools," Härkönen said.
Another study connects the rise of smoking rates among pregnant women to the availability of cigarettes in more retail stores. However, that study focuses largely on the affordability of cigarettes as the driver for increased rates of smoking during pregnancy.
"Such an approach does not take the complexity of the socio-economic status into account," Härkönen said. "Despite the positive connection between education and income, not all employees with academic degrees have high incomes, for example. Therefore, education might have a different kind of an effect on smoking during pregnancy than income."
Regardless of education level, the damage caused by mothers who smoke during pregnancy is universal, experts say.
The CDC reports that smoking during pregnancy can lead to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or to a baby having a low birth weight. Smoking can also make it difficult for women to get pregnant.