Smoking during pregnancy damages child's lungs
NEW YORK, Mar 21 (Reuters Health) -- Mothers who smoke during pregnancy may not only be harming their lungs, they may be damaging those of their fetus as well. Results of a new study show that children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy have signs of i
The authors of the study also suggest that these children may have a higher than average risk of lung cancer and heart disease in adulthood.
``Exposure to maternal smoking (in the womb) is independently associated with decreased lung function in children of school age,'' lead author Dr. Frank D. Gilliland and colleagues at the University of Southern California School of Medicine in Los Angeles write in the April issue of the medical journal Thorax.
As far as therapies that may prevent some of this lung damage in children -- that's easy, Gilliland told Reuters Health -- ``Don't smoke!'' He added that to improve the long-term outlook for these children, it is important to ``make sure the mother or father don't continue to smoke in the home.''
However, the researcher commented that it remains unknown if the decline in lung function will persist into adulthood in these children.
The study authors suggest that ``reducing the burden of (lung) diseases associated with tobacco smoke may require the reduction of smoking among women during their childbearing years.'' Gilliland said this means that physicians will need to ``work with the mom to reduce the barriers to quitting for the health and welfare of her unborn child.''
In the study, Gilliland and colleagues used a questionnaire completed by parents of 3,357 school children in 4th, 7th and 10th grade to assess exposure to household environmental tobacco smoke and exposure while in the womb due to the mother's smoking. The children ranged in age from 10 to 16 years old. Gilliland's group also used several tests to measure lung function in the children.
The investigators found an association between exposure in the womb to a mother's cigarette smoke and reductions in most of the measures of lung function in the children.
Gilliland's group reports that the children's exposure to environmental tobacco smoke did not account for the decline in lung function.