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Pregnant Smokers Risk Having Babies With Smaller Brains & More Anxiety

Tue, October 8, 2013 11:10am EDT by Kristine Kowalski 3 Comments
Pregnant Smokers
Brooke Fasani/ Getty Images

In a new study, researchers found that moms who continued smoking during their pregnancy directly affected their babies’ brain development, which led to increased cases of anxiety and other emotional development issues well into their kids’ adolescent years.

Mothers smoked while they were pregnant were more likely to develop anxiety and moody behavior over the course of their childhood and adolescence as a result of their brains under-developing, according to a new study released on Oct. 7. Pre-natal tobacco exposure resulted in “smaller total brain volumes and smaller cortical gray matter volumes,” according to the study.

Pregnant Smokers Risk Having Babies With Smaller Brains & More Anxiety

Dr. Hanan El Marroun of the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam and his team of researchers “assessed the brains and emotional functioning of 113 six to eight year-olds whose mothers smoked from one to nine cigarettes a day during pregnancy,” reported The Daily Mail.

In the study, 17 expectant moms stopped smoking altogether when they found out they were pregnant, and 96 continued smoking throughout the pregnancy. “The results were compared to a control group of 113 children unexposed to cigarettes in the womb,” explained the study. “They showed that those whose mothers continued smoking had smaller brains with less grey and white matter.”

New Study Finds Pre-Natal Tobacco Exposure Results In Long Term Brain Development Stunting

Dr. El Marroun said:

It’s well known cigarette smoking can cause serious health problems including cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Smoking during pregnancy has also been shown to adversely affect offspring health. Yet up to 25 per cent of pregnant women report smoking during pregnancy. During childhood and adolescence, prenatal tobacco exposure has been associated with behavioral and cognitive problems. Furthermore, evidence is accumulating prenatal tobacco exposure is related to psychiatric disorders and mortality from childhood to young adulthood.

In a piece titled “Prenatal Tobacco Exposure and Brain Morphology: A Prospective Study in Young Children” for the Neuropsychopharmacology journal, the study found:

Continued prenatal tobacco exposure was associated with cortical thinning, primarily in the superior frontal, superior parietal and precentral cortices. These children also demonstrated increased scores of affective problems. … Importantly, brain development in offspring of mothers who quit smoking during pregnancy resembled that of non-exposed controls (no smaller brain volumes and no thinning of the cortex). Our findings suggest an association between continued prenatal tobacco exposure and brain structure and function in school-aged children.

What do YOU think, HollyMoms? Are you surprised by the results of this study?

— Kristine Hope Kowalski

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