According to a new study, newborns that have been exposed to nicotine, from both active and passive smoking mothers show poor physiological, sensory, motor and attention responses.
Smoking during pregnancy has been associated with several health problems in infants — such as learning difficulties, attention deficit disorder and even obesity. However the effects on neonatal behaviour have only been explored.
A new study has gone further and analysed the effects of passive smoking during pregnancy on newborns. The study was carried out by researchers at the Behaviour Evaluation and Measurement Research Centre (CRAMC) of the Rovira i Virgili University and has subsequently been published in the Early Human Development journal.
Scientists studied the behaviour of 282 healthy newborns using the Neonatal Behavioural Evaluation Scale. This evaluates behaviour and responses between 48 and 72 hours after birth.
From those mothers studied, 22% smoked during pregnancy and hardly 6% were exposed to passive smoking. Out of the smoking mothers, 12.4% had between 1 and 5 cigarettes a day. 6.7% had between 6 and 10 a day and 2.8% had between 10 and 15 a day. None of them smoked more than 15 cigarettes a day.
The findings show that babies born to smoking and passive smoking mothers score low in their ability to inhibit stimuli that could alter the central nervous system.
Also children of passive smoking mothers have poor motor development, while those of smoking mothers have less ability to regulate behaviour and response in physiological, sensor, motor and attention terms.
“Health professionals should encourage future mothers and their families to eliminate or reduce tobacco consumption,” states Josefa Canals, one of the lead authors of the study.
Canals, stresses the importance of informing mothers on the effects of involuntary exposure to cigarette smoke in order to prevent direct damage to the foetus and infant development.
Smoking during pregnancy
Even though smoking during pregnancy can be stopped, it is a leading cause of illness and death for both mother and baby, with between 11% and 30% of pregnant women smoking or being passively exposed to tobacco smoke.
When a pregnant woman smokes, nicotine concentrations in the foetus reach more than 15% of that of the mother.
“However, although women tend to reduce their normal tobacco consumption when falling pregnant, the key is to study the effects of exposure to small amounts of smoke on foetal development,” conclude Canals and Hernández.