Smoking during pregnancy has been linked to everything from miscarriages to low birth weight to a higher likelihood that your child will grow up with behavioral problems and respiratory infections.
Now, researchers from The Miriam Hospital in Providence, R.I. have found yet another reason for expectant mothers (and their partners) to quit. According to a study recently published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, smoking during a pregnancy can lower stress response, cause DNA alterations for a gene that controls the passage of stress hormones from mother to baby, and decrease levels of stress hormones.
That's not a good thing. Lower stress hormones don't equal lower stress— in fact, it's the opposite.
"Our results suggest that these newborns may not be mounting adequate hormonal response to daily stressors. Their stress systems may not be prepared for the stressors of daily life," lead researcher Laura Stroud, Ph.D., of the Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine at The Miriam Hospital, said in a news release. "This may be particularly detrimental in babies born to mothers who lack resources and parenting skills and whose babies may encounter more daily stressors."
The small study evaluated 100 newborn-mother pairs and tracked moms through their pregnancy and up through the first month of their child's life. The researchers tested infant cortisol (a stress-related hormone) levels and found that changes in the gene that passed cortisol from mother to child were negatively affected due to smoking.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1 in every 10 mothers in the U.S. smokes during the last three months of her pregnancy. If you need help kicking the habit, follow our tips to quit here.
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Photo of pregnant woman with cigarette courtesy of Shutterstock.