Smoking While Pregnant Can Cause Birth Defects


It is widely known that smoking during pregnancy is harmful -- it increases the risk of miscarriage, low birth weight and premature birth. But now the first major study to examine the risk of birth defects from smoking is being reported.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the results of the study out of the University College London Cancer Institute are disturbing.

The Times writes:

Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of a wide range of birth defects, including skull defects, missing or deformed limbs, clubfoot, cleft palate, protrusion of the gastrointestinal system through the skin and heart problems.

"Very few public health educational policies mention birth defects when referring to smoking and those that do are not specific — this is largely because of past uncertainty over which ones are directly linked," study leader Dr. Allan Hackshaw said in a statement.

Analyzing research over the past 50 years, the study found:

-- A 33% increased risk of skull defects.
-- A 28% increased risk of being born with a clubfoot.
-- A 28% increased risk of cleft lip or cleft palate.
-- A 27% increased risk of gastrointestinal defects.
-- A 26% increased risk of missing or deformed limbs.
-- A 10% increased risk of heart defects.
-- A 50% increased risk of gastroschisis, in which parts of the stomach or gut protrude through the skin of the abdomen.

"Now we have this evidence, advice should be more explicit about the kinds of serious defects ... that babies of mothers who smoke during pregnancy can suffer from," Hackshaw said. "The message from this research is that women should quit smoking before becoming pregnant, or very early on, to reduce the chance of having a baby with a serious and lifelong physical defect."

The study is published in the journal Human Reproduction Update.
photo by Nyboer Creative

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