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Smoking While Pregnant Leads to Delayed Responses in Infants

Update Date: Sep 14, 2012 02:15 PM EDT

Active and passive (second-hand) exposure to nicotine, can mean complications for the unborn child of pregnant women. While this is not groundbreaking news by any means, researchers have conducted a more comprehensive study on how passive smoke can affect the physiological, sensory, motor and attention responses of newborns.

Previous studies have linked a mother's smoking habits to certain health issues a newborn may face, including attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity and obesity.

But experts at the Behavior Evaluation and Measurement Research Center (CRAMC) of the Rovira i Virgili University wanted to see if and how exposure to smoke, whether directly or indirectly effected neonatal behaviors.

Scientists evaluated the behavior of 282 healthy newborns using the Neonatal Behavioral Evaluation Scale. This allows for interaction with the newborn in order to evaluate its behavior and responses between 48 and 72 hours after birth. 22 percent of mothers smoked during pregnancy and out of those numbers .4 percent reported to indulge in 1 and 5 cigarettes a day while 6 percent had between 6 and 10 a day; 2.8 percent had between 10 and 15 a day. None of them smoked more than 15 cigarettes a day.

The results revealed that those born to smoking and passive smoking mothers scored low in their ability to inhibit stimuli that could alter the central nervous system. Furthermore, children of passive smoking mothers have poor motor development and those of smoking mothers have less ability to regulate behavior and response in physiological, sensor, motor and attention terms

"Newborns who have had intrauterine exposure to nicotine, whether in an active or passive way, show signs of being more affected in terms of their neurobehavioural development" as explained to SINC by Josefa Canals and Carmen Hernández, the lead authors of the study. "This could be an indicator of pathologies, independently of sociodemographic, obstetric and paediatric factors,"

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