A new study published in the journal, Pediatrics, has shown that smoking during pregnancy is associated with increased risk of blood vessel damage in the child. In this study, enrolling 250 children, the body dimensions and lung functioning of the children were measured when they were 4-weeks-old. Parents of the children were asked to complete a questionnaire about lifestyle, including smoking during pregnancy. The children were followed up until they were 5-years-old, and the thickness and flexibility of carotid arteries were measured.
Results of the study show that the thickness of the carotid arteries of the children born to women who smoked during pregnancy was 19 microns more than those of the children born to mothers who do not smoke. The stiffness of arteries was also found to be more in children born to mothers who smoked – 15% stiffer than the children born to mothers who were non-smokers. When both the parents were smokers, the carotid arteries were found to be 28 microns thicker and 21% stiffer in children when compared to children born to parents who did not smoke. These changes in the thickness and flexibility of the blood vessels indicate blood vessel damage, which may later lead to abnormal functioning.
The effects were not very significant when only the father was smoking during pregnancy or if the mother did not start smoking until after the delivery of the child.
“The study clearly shows smoking during pregnancy as an independent factor”, says Uiterwaal, an associate professor of clinical epidemiology at the Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care at the University Medical Center Utrecht, Netherlands. This may form another solid argument to quit smoking during pregnancy.