Babies exposed to their mothers smoking face becoming obese

In the present day it is now common knowledge amongst most women at least, that smoking during pregnancy can seriously harm the health and development of their growing baby inside the womb. Some of the potential risks to the unborn baby include clubfoot, a cleft lip, skull abnormalities and the harmful chemicals in cigarettes can affect the oxygen supply to the unborn baby.

All these reasons alone should be enough ammunition to persuade expecting mothers not to light up whilst pregnant, but remarkably there are some who still do this and are not giving the baby a good, healthy start to their life. Perhaps more news to emerge this week could help these particular women to change their attitudes and stub out those harmful cigarettes. Not only is it hugely beneficial to stop smoking during pregnancy, as Medical Specialists reported earlier this year, it would be wise for any parent who smokes to properly quit for good to lessen the risk of their children developing lung conditions such as asthma or chronic pulmonary disorder (COPD).

The latest damaging news on cigarettes has come from a study conducted at the Hospital for Sick Children based in Toronto, Canada. Dr Amirreza Haghighi who led the study, claims that if mothers smoke when they are pregnant, they ‘put children at risk of obesity later on’.

For their research, Dr Haghighi and colleagues enrolled 378 teenagers who were between 13 to 19 years of age. The teens were drafted in from high schools in Quebec, Canada. Approximately half of the participants had been exposed to maternal smoking, whilst the others had not. Researchers defined the exposure as mothers who had smoked at least one cigarette per day during the 13-28 week period of pregnancy, and non-exposure was defined as mothers who had not smoked for at least a year prior to pregnancy and did not light-up when pregnant too.

Analysis found that those babies born after smoke exposure generally weighed less at birth and were breastfed for shorter time periods. Teens that had mothers who had smoked were also found to have a slightly higher body mass index (BMI) and a greatly larger proportion of body fat in comparison to the non-exposed group.

The most interesting find in the study could be researchers discovering that prenatal smoking could result in slight structural alterations in the brain that can lead to a desire for eating unhealthy fatty foods. In particularly, brain scans determined that the exposed teens were found to have a lower volume in the area of the brain called ‘amygdala’. These are almond-shaped neurons in the brain’s medial temporal lobe and are responsible for the storing memories and processing of emotions such as fear, pleasure and anger.

However it appears that the amygdala can play a part in obesity as well. It was noted that as the volume of amygdala decreased, their fat intake actually increased.  In their report published in the journal the Archives of General Psychiatry, the researchers comment, “Prenatal exposure to maternal cigarette smoking may promote obesity by enhancing dietary preference for fat, and this effect may be mediated in part through subtle structural variations in the amygdala.”

There are numerous positive impacts that stopping smoking can have on both mother and baby, during and after pregnancy. This story highlights the fact that prenatal smoking can possibly lead to the child then growing up to become obese, but there are many other reasons to why it is worthwhile ditching cigarettes, such as:

. Less risk of stillbirth.

. Less risk of cot death.

. Higher chance of a normal pregnancy with less complications, and healthy baby being born.

. Fewer instances of morning sickness.

. There is a lesser risk of the baby being born underweight.

. Easier breathing for the baby before and after birth.

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