Perceptions of risks of smoking and heavy drinking during pregnancy: 1985 NHIS findings.
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Perceptions of risks of smoking and heavy drinking during pregnancy: 1985 NHIS findings.

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      Public Health Rep
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      As part of the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Questionnaire administered in the 1985 National Health Interview Survey, nearly 20,000 respondents ages 18-44 answered questions about their awareness of the risks of smoking and heavy drinking during pregnancy. In reference to smoking, interviewers asked about miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity, and low birth weight; in reference to heavy drinking, they asked about miscarriage, mental retardation, low birth weight, and birth defects, as well as fetal alcohol syndrome. For each of these adverse outcomes, a majority of subjects acknowledged increased risk because of smoking or heavy drinking during pregnancy. The range was 66-80 percent of respondents for the four questions on smoking, with the perceived association to smoking strongest for low birth weight. Approximately 84 percent of respondents associated heavy drinking with increased risk for each of the suggested pregnancy outcomes. Smoking seemed to be perceived to pose a lesser risk to pregnancy than heavy drinking. This relative lack of awareness of the pregnancy risks of smoking was more apparent among respondents with less education and more pronounced among blacks than whites. Women were more likely than men to express some opinion on these pregnancy-related questions and were more cognizant than men of the risks. On this limited survey, Americans ages 18-44 were not very knowledgeable about fetal alcohol syndrome. Among the 55 percent who had heard of fetal alcohol syndrome, fewer than one in four correctly identified it as a set of birth defects when offered three possible definitions. It will be interesting to correlate responses to these "knowledge" questions with NHIS data still forthcoming on reported actual smoking and drinking behavior among women respondents who were recently pregnant.
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