- Smoking during pregnancy can disrupt developing an endocrine system of the female fetus in the womb causing increased testosterone levels and masculinization of the fetus, and lowering fertility in the longer term
- Level of testosterone exposure was estimated by measuring the anogenital distance (AGD), the distance from the midpoint of the anus to the genitalia and was found to be longer in girl babies whose mothers smoked. There was no similar change in boy babies
- Nevertheless, further research is needed to gain more insight and to explain the relationship between maternal smoking, increased AGD in baby girls and long term health issues
Measuring Effect of Maternal Smoking on Female Fetuses
- The study team measured anogenital distance (AGD) in 56 newborn girl babies and 64 boy babies, whose mothers had smoked during pregnancy
- AGD was markedly higher in the baby girls and bore a direct relationship to the amount of cigarettes their mothers smoked during pregnancy . No such change was noted on the AGD in the boys
- The significant increase in AGD in girls exposed to maternal smoking suggests likely testosterone exposure in the fetus that affects the endocrine system development resulting in fertility issues and metabolic problems later in life
- More research is needed to understand the exact nature of the relationship between maternal smoking, increased AGD and longterm health problems in girls
Dr. Kizilay, cautions, "The mechanisms behind the potential reproductive problems caused by exposure to cigarette smoke in the womb are not fully understood. Our results do suggest that girls have higher testosterone exposure but not how this relates to reproductive function. More extensive and carefully-designed studies are required to explain this relationship."
Future PlansThe team now plan to follow up effects of exposure to high testosterone levels in the womb caused by maternal smoking in the same group of baby girls, to see how this impacts their long-term fertility
In summary, maternal smoking during pregnancy can adversely affect the endocrine development of female fetus and cause fertility issues later in life. It is well known that smoking during pregnancy harms both the mother and baby and this study is yet another reason why women should abstain from smoking during pregnancy.
- Prenatal Smoke-Exposure is Associated with Increased Anogenital Distance in Female Infants - (http://abstracts.eurospe.org/hrp/0092/hrp0092lb-14)