Pregnant women who smoke are putting babies at risk of severe birth defects
15th July 2011
New report shows Mothers who smoke during their pregnancy are putting their babies at risk of severe birth defects A study has indicated that smoking during pregnancy is putting the baby at risk of being born malformed.  The study, initiated at the University College London (UCL), analysed approximately 174,000 instances of malformation together with 11.7 million healthy births. The experts based their conclusions on 172 research papers that have been published in the past 50 years. Mothers who smoke during their pregnancy are increasing the risk of having a baby with missing or deformed limbs by 26%. In addition, there is a 28% increased risk for clubfoot, 27% for gastrointestinal defects, 33% for skull abnormalities, 25% for eye defects, and 28% for cleft lip/palate. With roughly 17% of women in England and Wales smoking during their pregnancies (around 120,000 of the 700,000 babies born each year), clearly the data from the study should be a huge encouragement for women everywhere to give up the cigarettes. Professor Allan Hackshaw, lead author from the study, commented “People may think that few women still smoke when pregnant. But the reality is that, particularly in women under 20, the numbers are still staggeringly high. Maternal smoking during pregnancy is a well-established risk factor for miscarriage, low birth weight and premature birth. However, very few public health educational policies mention birth defects when referring to smoking and those that do are not very specific - this is largely because of past uncertainty over which ones are directly linked.” He further added “Now we have this evidence, advice should be more explicit about the kinds of serious defects such as deformed limbs, and facial and gastrointestinal malformations that babies of mothers who smoke during pregnancy could suffer from. The message from this research is that women should quit smoking before becoming pregnant, or very early on, to reduce the chance of having a baby with a serious and lifelong physical defect.”