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While it is known that babies born to mothers that smoke during pregnancy can have low birth weight and an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome, a new study now shows that these babies are also more irritable and difficult to soothe.
Researchers at The Miriam Hospital's Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine say that this may disrupt the early mother-child bond and also create long-term problems such as neurobehavioral problems in children.
“A baby who is harder to soothe and more irritable could be more difficult to take care of and could potentially affect the developing mother-child relationship, especially for mothers who are already stressed and have fewer resources,” says lead author Laura Stroud, PhD. “We need better treatment programs to help women not smoke during pregnancy, to keep them from starting smoking after the baby is born, and to help them take care of an excitable or colicky baby.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 and 30 percent of women continue to smoke during their pregnancy.
The study focused on 56 healthy, full-term newborns that were between 10 and 27 days old. Twenty-eight were exposed to smoking while the other 28 were not. Cotinine, a metabolite of nicotine, is easily passed from mother to child, and was tested in the mother’s saliva for this study.
The average number of cigarettes smoked each day by the mother decreased during pregnancy - 15 cigarettes a day in the first trimester to about 5 cigarettes a day in the third trimester.
After the babies were born, saliva was taken to test their cotinine levels. They were then assessed using the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Network Neurobehavioral Scale, which measures prenatal drug exposure in infants.
The study found that infants exposed to smoking mothers showed a higher need to be handled in order to be calmed down. Those babies also tended to be more excitable.
“Although the effects of maternal smoking at 10 to 27 days were subtle, in combination with a high-stress postnatal environment and deficits in parenting, they could represent early precursors for long-term, negative behavioral outcomes,” said Stroud.
The results of the study were published in the Journal of Pediatrics.
Source: Lifespan News Release