There is hardly a scenario where negligence is as unjustifiable as that of smoking during pregnancy. To add to the multitude of health blows that the habit causes to the smoker, the offspring of a pregnant woman also suffers deeply if not more the smoking mother.
Over the last two decades, science has come up with a lot of information about the consequences of smoking during pregnancy, which, sometimes, explain the pathologies that the offspring ends up succumbing to. Besides the well-known risks of premature birth, reduced cognitive ability, miscarriage, and malformations, new consequences continue to be uncovered at a rapid pace. Here are three recently found dangers of smoking during pregnancy.
- Kidney damage
Japanese researchers analyzed nationwide medical data of the last three years to scrutinize whether smoking during pregnancy also affects kidney function of the offspring. To investigate this, scientists looked at the amount of protein in the children’s urine to determine if there was an excess.
Excessive protein in the urine is a condition known as proteinuria and is symptomatic of poor renal function. Indeed, Japanese researchers found that children born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy were 1.24 times more likely to have kidney damage than those born to non-smokers. The study was recently published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.
- Higher risk of autism for grandchildren
The consequences of smoking during childbearing may even affect the offspring of one’s child. A recent study at the University of Bristol, UK, found that girls whose maternal grandmothers smoked during pregnancy were 67% more likely to display behavioral traits of autism, such as repetitive behavior and poor communication skills. Scientists relied on data collected by a long-term and ongoing study, known as Children of the 90s, to analyze how smoking affects the children and grandchildren of mothers. They also found that the grandchildren of pregnant smokers were 53% more likely than normal to develop an autism spectrum disorder.
These findings suggest that smoking during childbearing somehow affects the girl’s egg development. Although more studies are necessary to know the exact mechanisms involved, these findings could be related to the recent discovery that smoking impacts the genetic makeup of the offspring.
- Altered immune system
Interleukin-8 proteins play a crucial role in the human immune system. But they also induce inflammatory reactions, being associated with a number of health conditions. Researchers from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) recently found that these proteins exist in higher concentrations in the offspring of pregnant smokers. This could have deep implications in the pathologies that these children may suffer in the future. The proteins are implicated in a number of conditions, such as gingivitis, bronchiolitis and obesity. They are also believed to reduce the efficacy of antipsychotic medications in the treatment of schizophrenia. Coincidentally, those with higher levels of Interleukin-8 are also more likely to develop schizophrenia.