Researchers from the university of Michigan state that Women who smoke while pregnant are 60 percent to 70 percent more likely than nonsmokers to give birth to a baby with a cleft lip or palate. The risk of the birth defect rises with the number of cigarettes that a mother-to-be smokes each day, even after factors like the mother's race, age and educational level are considered. The finding, based on the largest-ever examination of cleft lip and palate incidence nationwide, suggests that the deformity should be added to the list of potential harmful effects from smoking during pregnancy.
Cleft lip and palate are fairly grave birth defects. They are the fourth most common congenital abnormalities, affecting about one in 670 newborns. The deformities are marked by obvious gaps in either the lips and nose or the roof of the mouth, due to improper fusion. Besides affecting a child's appearance, cleft lip and palate impede the ability to breathe, eat, hear and speak. Correcting the defects involves many successive operations and years of therapy, but can still leave behind scars, speech impediments and emotional detriment.
Just as public health messages about the risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy have resulted in a steady decline in fetal alcohol syndrome, they hope women will take notice of their results and others that have found smoking can harm a developing baby.