There’s never a good time to smoke cigarettes, but it’s especially risky to smoke during pregnancy. Recently, researchers discovered a new risk of smoking while pregnant. Lighting up could jeopardize a growing baby’s coordination and motor skills.
Another Risk of Smoking During Pregnancy
In a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, researchers followed more than 13,000 children born in 1958 in Great Britain. The children were given a battery of tests at age eleven to assess their coordination and motor control.
The results were alarming. Kids born to moms who smoked couldn’t perform tasks involving coordination and fine motor skills as easily or accurately as kids whose moms abstained from smoking during pregnancy. This was true even after researchers controlled for other factors that could affect a child’s fine motor skills and coordination. Interestingly, boys were more likely to have coordination and motor problems than girls – if their mom smoked while pregnant.
The Problem of Smoking While Pregnant: Why Does It Affect Motor Skills?
Scientists believe that smoking while pregnant increases the risk of nutritional deficiencies, which could affect motor development in a growing fetus. The nicotine in cigarettes also activates acetylcholine – a neurotransmitter that’s important for a baby’s brain development. If acetylcholine is activated at the wrong time, which can happen if a mom smokes during pregnancy, it causes abnormal nerve connections to form, which can lead to coordination and motor problems in a child. Even more disturbing is the fact that these changes can be permanent.
Other Risks of Smoking While Pregnant
Poor coordination and decreased motor skills aren’t the only problems a mom-to-be who smokes could encounter. Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of a baby being born too early or being too small in size. Moms who smoke are also at a higher risk for stillbirth. This is because nicotine narrows the blood vessels that carry nutrients and oxygen to the fetus. Moms who smoke are unknowingly choking off their growing baby’s oxygen supply.
The Dangers of Smoking While Pregnant: The Bottom Line?
Smoking during pregnancy isn’t worth the risk to either mom or baby. When a mom smokes a cigarette during pregnancy, she smokes for two. Don’t expose a baby to nicotine or any of the other dangerous chemicals in cigarettes.
Eurekalert.org. “Smoking during pregnancy may harm the child’s motor control and coordination”