A new study using 4D ultrasounds shows fetus’ reaction to mother’s smoking. These new images prove once again that smoking during pregnancy affects the unborn child and might also convince future mothers to give up on this habit that not only affects them but also their unborn baby.
Scientists from Durham and Lancaster Universities in the U.K. analyzed the ultrasounds and observed that the fetus manifested disturbed mouth and face movements. During the study, they also noticed that these movements continue as the baby develops in the womb. This phenomenon raised concerns as such movements usually decrease in frequency as the baby further develops.
The situation is even more alarming if we look at statistics. More U.S. pregnant women smoke, despite all the warnings in regards to the effect of cigarettes on the baby’s development. The American Lung Association stated that in 2005, there were 10.7 percent pregnant smokers in the U.S. This translates to annual healthcare costs of $366 million annually.
The study was published in the Acta Paediatrica medical journal. According to the results the disturbed movements indicate the possibility of the baby having a “weaker central nervous system development”.
The study consisted in the team conducting ultrasounds on pregnant women from the antenatal unit at James Cook University Hospital in Britain who smoked about 14 cigarettes per day. The 4D ultrasounds were taken at 24, 28, 32 and 36 weeks of pregnancy.
The study showed babies of smoking mothers have a higher rate of mouth movements. These movements have also been noticed to manifest in the unborn children of depressed women. Both depression and nicotine use are considered major risk factors in fetus development.
These mouth movements indicate an “impaired fetal central nervous system development”. The central nervous system (CNS) is responsible for the body’s general movements. It seems that in babies with smoking mothers, the CNS isn’t able to develop with the same speed as in children of non-smoking mothers.
Lead author Nadja Reissland of England’s Durham University hopes the results will convince future mothers to give up on this habit. Smoking during pregnancy decreases the level of available oxygen for both the mother and the unborn child. This increases the risk of stillbirth or miscarriage. It also raises the baby’s heart rate and the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
Image Source: Growing Your Baby