Affect Newborn's Behavior
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) -
Smoking during pregnancy appears to affect a newborn's behavior
in ways similar to infants whose mothers used heroin or other
illegal drugs, new study findings suggest.
Smoking between 6 and 7 cigarettes
per day -- less than half a pack -- throughout pregnancy was associated
with infants that were more excitable, less consolable and more
rigid, according to the report published in the journal Pediatrics.
"The smoking effects in our study
underscore the importance of smoking cessation programs, particularly
for women of childbearing age," writes lead author Karen L. Law
of Brown Medical School in Providence, Rhode Island.
Stacks of previous research show
that women who smoke while pregnant are twice as likely to have
a low-birth weight infant compared to their non-smoking peers.
But, according to the new report, few studies have examined how
prenatal cigarette exposure may affect an infant's behavior.
To investigate, the team of researchers
evaluated the behavior of 27 infants born to mothers who reported
that they smoked an average of 6 to 7 cigarettes a day during
their pregnancy. Smoking habits were verified by measuring cotinine,
a breakdown product of nicotine, found in the saliva. The babies
were compared to 29 infants born to non-smoking mothers.
Babies born to mothers who smoked
showed more signs of stress in their central nervous, gastrointestinal
and visual systems, required more handling and were more rigid
than other babies, the authors report.
The findings suggest the babies
may have been undergoing nicotine withdrawal, they said.
What's more, Law's team reports
that the levels of behavioral stresses that were observed were
on par with those seen in infants born to mothers who use heroin
and other opiate drugs, and the babies had stress behavior similar
to those seen in preterm infants.
"The findings require us to take
a step back," said Law in a prepared statement. "What are the
Surgeon General warnings doing to stop smoking, given that the
percentage of smokers is similar in the pregnant and general populations
(about 18 percent and 25 percent respectively)? It is a huge public
health concern that so many people are suffering the costs of
smoking, including newborns."
SOURCE: Pediatrics 2003;111:1318-1323.
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