Here’s more alarming evidence about the risks of smoking during pregnancy – it can actually change a baby’s genes.
The largest study of its kind suggests exposure to tobacco smoke in utero can alter a child’s DNA and may lead to birth defects and health problems later in life.
The study by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences found babies of mothers who smoked during pregnancy were more likely to have experienced genetic changes than newborns of non-smokers. The research says children of smokers are more likely to suffer medical problems than those of non-smokers, and this continues into adulthood.
It says there are more than 7000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, and at least 69 are carcinogenic. It points to several studies that have linked smoking to changes to genes involved in the immune response and many types of cancer.
Researchers analysed blood samples from 889 newborns. Some 287 of those babies’ mothers smoked during their first trimester. They found a link between smoking and DNA methylation changes in 110 gene regions.
Previous studies have shown that children of pregnant smokers are more likely to have low birth weights and are more likely to be nicotine or drug addicts as adults than those not exposed to tobacco smoke before birth. The researchers say further studies are needed to determine whether these DNA alterations persist throughout life.