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Expecting? Quit Smoking Now for a Healthier Child

Expecting? Quit Smoking Now for a Healthier Child
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For some, quitting is easier when they know that they're not affecting just their own health, but also the health of their unborn baby
Women have heard that smoking during pregnancy can cause preterm delivery and stunt their baby's growth in utero, leading to low birth weight. Now a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition says that there's another reason to kick the habit: Children whose mothers smoke during pregnancy are about 60% more likely to become obese by age four than those children whose moms don't smoke.

Smoking moms have heavier tots

The aim of the new study was to determine the effect of maternal smoking during pregnancy on measures of fetal and child growth and on the risk of becoming overweight or obese as young children. The study included 5,342 mothers, fathers, and their children living in the Netherlands. The mothers answered questions about their prenatal smoking history, and the children's growth and weight were monitored throughout pregnancy and then regularly until age four. Fathers also gave information regarding their smoking status during their partners' pregnancies.

  • Children whose mothers smoked throughout their pregnancy had smaller head circumferences, were shorter, and had a 1.6 times increased risk of being obese by age four compared with children whose mothers didn't smoke.
  • Children of mothers who quit smoking early on in their pregnancy (during the first trimester) had normal growth patterns and weren't at increased risk of being overweight.
  • Fathers' smoking histories didn't seem to negatively affect their children's growth or weight.

"Our findings suggest that direct intrauterine exposure to smoke until late pregnancy leads to different height and growth adaptations and increases the risks of overweight and obesity in preschool children," said Busra Durmus, lead author of the study. "Smoking during pregnancy might lead to permanently impaired skeletal growth, a shorter stature, and higher weight."

Do it for your baby

There are plenty of reasons to quit smoking, including decreasing your risk of lung cancer and other respiratory diseases, diabetes, and heart disease. For some women, quitting becomes easier when they know that they're not just affecting their own health, but also the health of their unborn baby. If you're trying to quit, acupuncture and hypnosis are safer alternatives to nicotine replacement products to help curb your cigarette cravings and quit smoking for good.

"When you see babies born prematurely and struggling just to survive, you want to do everything you can to keep it from happening to another child," says Gail Gallon, a NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) nurse. "Now that we have even more information about the dangers of smoking during pregnancy, we can do more to encourage women to give their babies the healthy start that they deserve."

(Am J Clin Nutr 2011;94:164-71)

Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, received her doctoral degree from Bastyr University, the nation's premier academic institution for science-based natural medicine. She co-founded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI, where she practiced whole family care with an emphasis on nutritional counseling, herbal medicine, detoxification, and food allergy identification and treatment. Her blog, Eat Happy, helps take the drama out of healthy eating with real food recipes and nutrition news that you can use. Dr. Beauchamp is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.

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