Mothers, who smoke while pregnant, risk the lives of their children even if the kids are not exposed to second hand smoke after they are born. A European study, which was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, suggests that children born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy have an increased risk of having asthma.
Studies done earlier suggest that second hand smoke is harmful to children and can lead to increased risk of asthma or can aggravate the lung problem. But to date, researchers were not clear if mothers who smoked during pregnancy also created a high risk environment for their unborn babies.
Now a study conducted on 21,600 European children proves that kids are at a higher risk of asthma even if they are not exposed to passive smoking later on in life.
The study authors found that those children were two-thirds more likely to have asthma by age six, versus kids whose moms did not smoke during pregnancy. Even smoking during the first trimester alone was linked to higher asthma risk.
The study could not, however, prove that the direct cause of the increased risk of asthma in kids was smoking.
Anna Bergstrom, a researcher at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm who worked on the study says that there are already many reasons why smoking should be avoided during pregnancy. It increases miscarriage risk, leads to low birth weights, birth defects and other pregnancy related complications.
“I think that our study provides yet another good reason to quit smoking,” Bergstrom said in an email.
Of the 21,600 children studied mothers of 735 said that they smoked during pregnancy but quit after giving birth. Just under seven percent of all children in the study had been diagnosed with asthma by the time they were four to six years old and the risk was more for kids whose mother smoked when pregnant.
The study author says that considering other factors like birth weight and history of their parents with asthma, of the high risk children, 65 percent had chances of getting asthma.
As the research was based on correlation, rather than cause and effect, the researchers can’t say for sure that the smoking led to asthma in children, but Bergstrom said it is “biologically plausible” that prenatal smoking raises a child’s future asthma risk.
“For many reasons – not only thinking about asthma in the offspring – it is a good idea to quit smoking when planning a pregnancy, or as early as possible in a pregnancy,” Bergstrom said.
Nicotine replacement therapy, medication and behavioural counselling are some of ways by which mother’s can quit smoking.