During pregnancy, women’s lifestyle is very important to the child’s health.
Unhealthy habits like smoking may harm the baby’s growth. In a recent study, researchers from the University of Aberdeen found that smoking during pregnancy was associated with higher obesity risk in children.
The finding is published in the Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology.
In the study, researchers compared the body mass index (BMI) of siblings at 5 years of age. The moms of the children started smoking between pregnancies.
The data was from the Aberdeen Maternity and Neonatal Databank (AMND) – a repository unique to Aberdeen, that holds data on all births at the maternity hospital since the mid 1950’s.
The information was collected from more than 700 sibling pair’s height and weight at 5 years of age.
The results showed that children who were exposed to smoke in the womb had a higher BMI and the siblings who weren’t.
In other words, if the mom starts smoking between pregnancies, the younger child who is exposed to smoke is more likely to be obese than the older child.
One special feature of the current study is that it excluded other factors that may influence how smoking affect BMI in children. These factors include diet, physical activity, and socioeconomic status.
By comparing the effect of pregnancy smoking on siblings, the researchers could control the influences of these factors. They suggest that any difference between siblings is likely to be explained by the change in smoking.
The findings are in line with previous studies which showed that pregnancy smoking is harmful to children’s health.
Previous research has shown that smoking can increase miscarriage risk and cause problems with the placenta. The bad habit can also lead to preterm birth and low birth weight
Furthermore, the present study shows that the harmful effect is not just limited to pregnancy itself, it can last a long time after the child is born.