Pregnant women who smoke may end up giving birth to deformed babies, according to study published in the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Even smoking half a packet of cigarettes a day may raise the risk by 29% for the unborn child. The effects may be felt even before the woman is aware that she is pregnant.
'We found that the more a woman smoked, the higher the risk became that the baby would have these defects,' said study leader Benjamin Chang, M.D., pediatric plastic and reconstructive surgeon at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
In the largest study of its kind, covering 84% of the births in the US, Dr. Chang and co-author Li-Xing Man, M.Sc., both of Children's Hospital and the University of Pennsylvania, reviewed the records of more than 6.8 million live births listed in the U.S. Natality database from 2001 and 2002.
And although their study did not prove that prenatal exposure to cigarettes causes digital anomalies, Dr. Chang says that there was a strong association between the two, as the population studied was very large, and the dose-response effect was significant.
'Although the overall risk of having these defects is rather small, the increase in risk posed by tobacco exposure has the potential to affect thousands of children. Health professionals should increase their efforts to remind women of the dangers of smoking', he said.