Maternal Weight Trajectories during Pregnancy and Postpartum Among Cigarette Smokers

Joshua Sorrentino and Paul Mercado

A baby and its mother lying together. .

A baby and its mother lying together.

Undergraduate Student Project


Did you know that 12-20% of pregnant women smoke cigarettes in the United States? Did you know that quitting cigarettes at this point can provoke other unexpected health consequences? Hi,  I'm Josh Sorrentino, a Biochemistry major at the University at Buffalo, and I have worked with Dr. Xiaozhong Wen as my mentor for four years as a volunteer researcher in his lab.  In this lab, we recruit pregnant smokers, to provide counseling and support to aid in the quitting process. My partners, Paul Mercado and Zach Morrisey, and I have been working on a research project to examine weight gain trends among these women. Researchers know that smoking causes a reduction in weight gain, and that quitting smoking can cause an increase in weight gain. However, less is known about these situations among pregnant women. Quitting is very beneficial to the mother and child's health, but if it alters a mother's weight gain in an unnatural way, it can lead to obesity or other pregnancy complications. We hoped to identify trends in weight gain among quitters and non-quitters in order to establish weight management programs to reduce these risks.


Research has shown smoking and smoking cessation are associated with inadequate and excessive gestational weight gain (GWG), respectively. But there is poor knowledge on critical timings (weeks of pregnancy) of abnormal GWG among pregnant smokers and ex-smokers, which can inform weight management intervention. Also, the long-term postpartum consequences of abnormal GWG have been understudied among smokers and ex-smokers specifically. We aimed to fill these research gaps by examining weight trajectories during pregnancy and up to 12 months postpartum. Numerous weight measurements from 56 mothers were plotted according to weeks since conception. Data was grouped into two categories- quitters and non-quitters. Quitters have higher rates of GWG and total GWG than non-quitters. 65.2% of quitters had excessive GWG, while 60% of non-quitters had inadequate GWG. Early-quitters tend to have higher GWG than late-quitters. Quitters are also at risk for substantial postpartum retention, whereas non-quitters generally return to pre-pregnancy weight.

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