Effects Of Smoking Seen In High-Definition Scans Of Unborn Babies

Effects Of Smoking Seen In High-Definition Scans Of Unborn Babies
4-D scans show a sequence of movements displayed by two
fetuses at 32 weeks gestation. The image shows fetal
movements in a fetus whose mother is a smoker (top) and
a fetus whose mother is a non-smoker (below).
(Credit:Dr. Nadja Reissland, Durham University)
The harmful effects of smoking during pregnancy may be reflected in the facial movements of mothers' unborn babies, new research published in the journal Acta Paediatrica suggests.
 
Observing 4-D ultrasound scans, the researchers found that fetuses whose mothers were smokers showed a significantly higher rate of mouth movements than the normal declining rate of movements expected in a fetus during pregnancy.
 
The researchers suggested that the reason for this might be that the fetal central nervous system, which controls movements in general and facial movements in particular did not develop at the same rate and in the same manner as in fetuses of mothers who did not smoke during pregnancy.
 
The researchers observed 80 4-D ultrasound scans of 20 fetuses, to assess subtle mouth and touch movements. Scans were taken at four different intervals between 24 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. Four of the fetuses belonged to mothers who smoked an average of 14 cigarettes per day, while the remaining 16 fetuses were being carried by mothers who were non-smokers. All fetuses were clinically assessed and were healthy when born.
 
In common with other studies, the research also showed that maternal stress and depression have a significant impact on fetal movements, but that the increase in mouth and touch movements was even higher in babies whose mothers smoked.
 
The study also found some evidence of a bigger delay in the reduction of facial touching by fetuses whose mothers smoked, compared to the fetuses of non-smokers, but the researchers said this delay was less significant.
 
A larger study is needed to confirm these results and to investigate specific effects, including the interaction of maternal stress and smoking. But this is further evidence of the negative effects of smoking in pregnancy. The researchers added that future studies should also take into account the smoking behaviours of fathers.
 
Based on material originally posted by Durham University.