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New Study Links Moms' Smoking to Psychiatric Meds for Kids

If you need another reason not to light up while pregnant, here it is: A new study finds that children born to mothers who smoked while pregnant were more likely to end up on psychiatric medications such as antidepressants and stimulants by age 20, Reuters reports.

Published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the study looked at data on 175,000 children born in Finland, including whether their moms smoked while pregnant.

The researchers also used a national insurance database of prescription drugs for the period when the children were 5 to 20 years old.

Their findings, reported by Reuters:

One in 11 kids was prescribed a psychiatric medication at some point during that period, including anti-anxiety drugs, antipsychotics, antidepressants, stimulants and drugs for addiction.

Of kids and teens whose moms didn't smoke during pregnancy, 8 percent were on at least one of those drugs during the study period.

That compared to 11 percent of those whose moms smoked less than 10 cigarettes a day, and close to 14 percent whose moms had lit up more than 10 times per day.

The link remained when researchers left out babies who were born early or very small -- other factors that could affect future mental health.

The study doesn't prove that smoking while pregnant alters the baby's brain. And it's not clear if the problems come from smoke exposure before or after the baby is born. But the researchers suspect smoke affects development.

Dr. Michael Weitzman of New York University Medical Center, a researcher who was not involved in the new study, said it was "very interesting and very important." From Reuters:

"At the very least, parents need to be educated that they might be doing brain damage to their children" if they smoke during key times in development, Weitzman said.

He added that doctors should keep this in mind and look out for mental health problems in their young patients.

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