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Smoking While Pregnant Increases Chances Of Deformities

July 13, 2011

Experts say that women who smoke while pregnant should be aware that they are increasing the chance their baby will be born malformed.

According to the new data, published in the journal Human Reproduction Update, the risk of having a baby with missing or deformed limbs or a cleft lip is over 25 percent higher for smokers.

University College London doctors said that this just adds another good reason for women to quit smoking.

Seventeen percent of women in England and Wales smoke during pregnancy.

Researchers believe that several hundred babies from England and Wales are born each year with a physical defect caused by their mother’s smoking habits.

About 3,700 babies are born each year in England and Wales with a condition related to women smoking.

The experts took data from 172 research papers published over the last 50 years, which looked at maternal smoking and birth defects.

The findings revealed that smoking increased the risk of many abnormalities.

The chance of a baby being born with missing or deformed limbs is 26 percent higher, and cleft lip or palate is 28 percent more likely.

According to the research, the risk of clubfoot is 28 percent greater, and gastrointestinal defects are 27 percent more. 

Professor Allan Hackshaw, who led the research, said many women who smoke while pregnant do not know about these risks.

“There’s still this idea among some women that if you smoke the baby will be small and that will make it easier when it comes to the delivery,” he said in a statement.

“But what is not appreciated is that smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of defects in the child that are life-long.”

He said few public health educational policies mention birth defects when referring to smoking and those that do are not very specific.

“Now we have this evidence, advice should be more explicit about the kinds of serious defects such as deformed limbs, and facial and gastrointestinal malformations that babies of mothers who smoke during pregnancy could suffer from,” he said in a statement.

Amanda Sandford of Action on Smoking and Health told BBC: “This study shows some of the worst outcomes of smoking during pregnancy. Pregnant smokers will be shocked to learn that their nicotine habit could cause eye or limb deformities in their baby.

“There is clearly a need to raise awareness of these risks among girls and to ensure pregnant women are given all the support they need to help them quit smoking and to stay stopped after the birth.”

Basky Thilaganathan of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said women who struggled to quit should cut down on how much they smoke.

Hackshaw said the risk was likely related to the more a woman smokes, the bigger the risk her unborn child faces.

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