Exposure to secondhand smoke among pregnant women in Soweto, South Africa

Pottow, J L
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Background Tobacco secondhand smoke (SHS) has long being known for all its negative health effects. This work aimed to determine the SHS exposure rate in the pregnant population of Soweto and to determine their demographic characteristics. We also aimed to explore Soweto pregnant women’s knowledge, attitude and practice towards SHS exposure. Methods This was a prospective, cross sectional study undertaken at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, a tertiary hospital situated in Soweto. Soweto serves in excess of two million people, with more than 23 000 delivers annually in the hospital. This study used a questionnaire to survey a sample of pregnant women who were post caesarean section. Results A total of 100 women were interviewed. Twenty one percent reported to be exposed to SHS at home and 18% of the employed participants reported to be exposed at work. Forty three percent of the participants lived with a regular smoker and 73% had banned smoking in their house. However, even though the bans had been put in place, smoking still occurred in some of their homes. The demographic characteristics of the SHS-exposed participants compared to the non-exposed participants were similar. There was a statistically significant difference in the number of regular smokers that the participant lived with, with SHS-exposed participants being more likely to live with a regular smoker than with no regular smokers in the house. Ninety two percent of the participants reported they did not think it was appropriate that women smoke, even though some of them had previously been smokers themselves. Ninety one percent of participants were aware that SHS could have a negative effect on their babies while pregnant, and knew about health risks with SHS. Conclusion This study showed that in spite of strict anti-tobacco laws, a high percentage of pregnant women reported to be exposed to SHS at home and at work. Most were aware of the health risks of SHS, and tried to ban smoking in their homes.
A research report submitted to the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Medicine in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. MMed (O&G) Johannesburg, July 2016