Nicotine Products During Pregnancy May Increase Risk of Colic

Colic, a condition that is characterized by an inconsolable cry that lasts at least three hours a day and occurs more than three days a week for at least three weeks. It generally starts within the first few weeks of life and it can continue throughout infancy. The condition is stressful for both babies and parents alike. But can it be prevented?

The cause of colic is still very misunderstood. However, previous studies have linked smoking to an increased risk of colic. A more recent study, published in the online issue of Pediatrics on Feb. 20 and set to publish in the print version in March, links more than just smoking to colic.

Researchers gathered data by interviewing more than 63,000 mothers included in the Danish National Birth Cohort during pregnancy and six months after delivery. Of those women, about 74% said they did not smoke during their pregnancy, 24 percent said they did smoke, 0.3 percent said they used nicotine replacement therapy (patches, gum or inhalers) and 2 percent said they smoked and used nicotine replacement therapy.

Out of all of the children born to these women, about 8 percent were said to have colic. For women who smoked or used any form of nicotine replacement therapy during pregnancy, researchers found that their chances of having a colicky baby were significantly higher – 30 to 60 percent.

“The theory is that there are nicotine receptors in the GI system and nicotine receptors that alter serotonin, and these alterations affect the babies after birth, causing colic,” stated Dr. Jennifer Wu, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

In the United States, obstetricians rarely prescribe nicotine replacement therapy for pregnant women. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises against it, saying, “it is not recommended to use nicotine replacement therapy when treating pregnant women.”

Daniel Jacobsen, a nurse practitioner at North Shore-LIJ Health System’s Center for Tobacco control in Great Neck, N.Y. says that he recommends counseling and behavioral therapy for women who are struggling with kicking the habit.

“A very small percentage of women continue to smoke throughout their pregnancy,” Jacobsen said. “Most women, when they find out they’re pregnant, are able to quit.”

There are, however, some cases in which a woman just can’t seem to stop smoking. In these instances, obstetricians may weigh the risks of nicotine replacement versus the continued habit of smoking.

“Nicotine replacement is not the recommended treatment, but when women are still smoking in high amounts are exposing themselves and their fetus to all these toxins, it is sometimes though to be the lesser harm,” Jacobsen said. “Colic can be hard on the parents. It’s a nuisance…but the physical effects of tobacco causes on the fetus are worse. They can cause death or severe problems throughout the lifespan.”

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About the author


Kate Givans is a wife and a mother of five—four sons (one with autism) and a daughter. She’s an advocate for breastfeeding, women’s rights, against domestic violence, and equality for all. When not writing—be it creating her next romance novel or here on Growing Your Baby—Kate can be found discussing humanitarian issues, animal rights, eco-awareness, food, parenting, and her favorite books and shows on Twitter or Facebook. Laundry is the bane of her existence, but armed with a cup of coffee, she sometimes she gets it done.

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