Are you pregnant and trying to kick the habit of smoking to protect your baby? In your quest it is best not to use nicotine replacement therapies such as nicotine patches, gum, nasal spray, inhalers and lozenges, as this has been linked to obesity and metabolic syndrome in your child.
A study – aimed at determining the existence of a biological link between nicotine exposure from nicotine replacement therapy or smoking, and metabolic syndrome and obesity later in the life of offspring – was conducted by the Western University in Canada.
In the journal Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, research team leader Daniel Hardy of the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at Western University, says that even though nicotine replacement therapy is better than smoking, it could still have a negative effect on babies.
How was the study conducted?
The team of researchers observed pregnant laboratory rats that were given 1mg of nicotine for each kilogramme of their weight daily. This is equal to the average smoker’s nicotine intake per day, but is less than the amount of nicotine in nicotine replacement therapy, which is 10mg of nicotine and equal to about 10 cigarettes. The observation continued for six months after the offspring’s birth.
The study’s findings
When the rats were born, the researchers noted that the offspring from the mothers that were exposed to nicotine were smaller than the offspring from the mothers that were not exposed to nicotine. However, after six months of observation, the offspring of the nicotine-exposed mothers started to show an increase in liver and circulating triglycerides, which helps enable the bidirectional transfer of adipose fat and blood glucose from the liver, and is also an indicator of obesity.
Another finding was that there is a rise in triglyceride production when the liver is subjected to long-term nicotine exposure.
Further studies are needed to determine the long-term safety of nicotine replacement therapy during pregnancy, and the effects on offspring health.
As animal studies have proven that folic acid could reduce triglycerides, more investigation is needed into the reversal or prevention of the negative effects on the liver when folic acid administration is increased.
What can smoking do to your baby?
Smoking while pregnant affects you and your baby’s health before, during and after your baby is born. The nicotine and various other harmful chemicals present in cigarettes are carried through your bloodstream directly to your baby. This can lower the oxygen levels available to you and your baby, increase your baby’s heart rate, cause still birth and low birth weight, and increase the risk of your baby developing respiratory problems.
An increased risk of miscarriage, cleft lip, preterm birth and sudden death in infants (SIDS) are more of the negative effects smoking can have on your baby according to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Medical News Today also stated that offspring are exposed to a higher risk of gestational diabetes and obesity, as well as conduct disorder.
The more you smoke, the worse the effects on your baby. However, it is important to note that there is no safe level of smoking while pregnant.