Smoking while pregnant linked to behavioral problems in children..

November 4, 2009 - Smoking during pregnancy significantly increases the risk of having a child with behavioural problems, according to research published today. Disturbances can manifest themselves in children as young as three years old, the study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health claims.

PAPER: Smoking in pregnancy and disruptive behaviour in 3-year-old boys and girls: an analysis of the UK Millennium Cohort Study, J Hutchinson K E Pickett J Green L S Wakschlag, J Epidemiol Community Health 2010;64:82-88, ABSTRACT..

The findings are based on more than 14,000 mother-and-child pairs drawn from the millennium cohort study, a population-based study of children born between 2000 and 2001 whose families are receiving child benefit. The research was carried out by Professor Kate Pickett, at the department of health sciences at Hull York medical school, University of York.

Mothers, who were categorised as light or heavy smokers, depending on how many cigarettes they smoked every day during pregnancy, were asked to score their children's behaviour.

The questionnaire, assessing three-year-olds, focused on behavioural problems and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders. Parents were asked to record and rate their child's temper, the frequency of physical fights with, and bullying of, other children, and whether they were argumentative with adults.

Hyperactivity and inattention were deduced from the levels of restlessness and fidgeting/squirming a child displayed, and the extent to which the child was easily distracted or their attention wandered.

Almost one in 10 of the mothers said they smoked heavily throughout their pregnancy; a further 12.5% said they smoked lightly during this period, and 12.4% said they stopped smoking while pregnant.

Having discounted differences in the mother's age at the child's birth, her level of education and socioeconomic status, family stability and problematic parenting, boys whose mothers smoked throughout pregnancy were found to be significantly more likely to have behavioural problems, be hyperactive and have low attention spans than boys whose mothers did not. Boys whose mothers smoked heavily throughout pregnancy were almost twice as likely to display behavioural problems, the report claimed.

The sons of light smokers (fewer than 10 cigarettes a day during pregnancy) were almost 80% more likely to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, while the daughters of both light and heavy smokers were significantly more likely to display behavioural problems by the time they were three years old than girls whose mothers did not smoke.

The study suggests smoking while pregnant may damage the developing structure and function of the foetal brain, a link already demonstrated in animals. The foetal development of boys may also be more sensitive to this kind of chemical assault, the authors speculate, which could explain why boys are more likely to have behavioural problems than girls.

Reference: Smoking while pregnant linked to behavioural problems in children, Owen Bowcott, The Guardian, 11/3/2009.

Some pregnancy related news briefs:
Maternal Smoking - important risk factor in the development of psychotic experiences in their children..;
England - program to pay pregnant women not to smoke seems hopeful..;
Pregnant women who quit smoking before the 15th week reduce risk of premature birth and small babies..;
Pregnant women exposed to passive smoke greater chance of child will have respiratory distress..;
Cigarette Smoking During Pregnancy Alters Maternal and Fetal Thyroid Function..;