New ultrasound technology in high definition 4-D allows doctors to see precisely how smoking impacts fetuses in the womb. Just a few years ago, doctors would have to speculate, but these new images show that fetuses between 24 and 36 weeks gestation have strong reactions to mothers smoking .
The study published in 2015, in Acta Paediatric journal involved 20 pregnant mothers. Four of them smoked on average about 14 cigarettes a day, while 16 did not smoke at all.
Each woman received four ultrasounds over the course of three months. The results were shocking. The fetuses whose mothers smoked looked irritated and stressed. They squirmed and had more mouth movements. Doctors inferred that their central nervous systems did not develop at the same rate as the fetuses of non-smokers.
“Fetal facial movement patterns differ significantly between fetuses of mothers who smoked compared to those of mothers who didn’t smoke,” author Dr. Nadja Reissland, of Durham University’s Department of Psychology.
All of the babies in the study were born healthy. However, when the subject matter was brought up on The Doctors, the panel was adamant about their stance. They strongly believed there was simply no excuse for a mother to smoke while pregnant, believing it was one thing they could control.
“Our findings concur with others that stress and depression have a significant impact on fetal movements, and need to be controlled for, but additionally these results point to the fact that nicotine exposure per se has an effect on fetal development over and above the effects of stress and depression,” Resissland said.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking during pregnancy can:
- Increase the risk of preterm delivery
- Cause low birthweight
- Cause tissue damage in the lungs and brain
- Prevent the baby from getting enough oxygen
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