Image Credit: BBC News Though the link between mothers who smoke during pregnancy and babies who succumb to sudden Instant death syndrome (SIDS) has been made, one more piece of research has demonstrated specifically how the smoke impacts the fetus.
Dr. Gary Cohen and his team of researchers at Sweden's Karolinksa Institute studied 36 infants from birth to age one; 17 of the infants had mothers who smoked during pregnancy.
It was found upon first examination that the 17 infants exposed to in utero smoke had significant problems regulating their blood pressure and abnormal heart rates. Although one's blood pressure generally rises slightly after standing up, at just one week after birth, these babies showed an abnormally high blood pressure rise when lifted up from a lying down position.
The researchers found that over the course of the year, the babies' blood pressures became harder to regulate according to activity and, by the time they were one year old, blood pressure actually went down when the baby was lifted.
Dr. Cohen said that the cardiovascular element of SIDS was known, but that this particular study explained at least one reason why sudden infant death is a higher risk for babies of mothers who smoke.
It is estimated that more than a third of "cot deaths" would be avoided if mothers did not smoke during pregnancy.
"Babies of smokers have evidence of persistent problems in blood
pressure regulation that start at birth and get worse over time.... This study reveals for the first time that early life exposure to
tobacco can lead to long-lasting reprogramming of the infant blood
pressure control mechanism," Dr. Cohen said.
The Karolinksa Institute plans to follow this same group of infants as they grow to see how the paths their cardiovascular systems take as the children grow.