Thursday, March 11, 2010

Tobacco Effects Fetal Brain

A study recently published in the Journal of Pediatrics provides more evidence of the adverse effects of tobacco use during pregnancy. There is already evidence showing that prenatal tobacco exposure is associated with neuro-cognitive effects in the first 3 years of life, including problems with attention and regulation of emotions. We also know that maternal smoking is linked with intrauterine growth restriction and decreased neonatal birth weight. Now, a study from Finland has shown a link to actual brain development.

The researchers looked at 232 infants from a single hospital from 2001-2006 who were either very low birth weight or below 32 weeks gestational age. The developing fetuses were evaluated with head ultrasounds at different points and brain magnetic resonance imaging at term. 42 of the mothers smoked during their pregnancy (18.1%) and averaged 10 cigarettes per day. This smoking rate of 18% is very similar to what is found in the United States. Mothers who smoked during pregnancy were twice as likely to drink than those who did not smoke. The findings were that infants exposed to prenatal smoking had smaller frontal lobe and cerebellar volumes. The investigators did not report on developing functioning of the children as they aged so no clear clinical implications can be drawn from lower frontal lobe and cerebellar volumes but this study is one more piece of evidence that prenatal exposure to tobacco is clearly harmful.

Thought for the day

" So come what may, I'll not upset my cheerful happiness of mind. Dejection never brings me what I want; my virtue will be warped and marred by it".

The Way of the Bodhisattva

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