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Smoking during pregnancy may be tied to children's vascular damage

December 27, 2011|By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Smoking during pregnancy could be associated with vascular damage in children, a study finds.
Smoking during pregnancy could be associated with vascular damage in children,… (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles…)

Children of parents who smoke during pregnancy may show signs of vascular damage by the age of 5.

A study in the January 2012 issue of the journal Pediatrics looked at the effects of parental smoking during pregnancy and afterward on 259 children.

Mothers filled out questionnaires about their smoking habits soon after their children were born and both parents were asked about their smoking habits when the children were 5 years old. At that age children also had their carotid artery tested via ultrasound to check for signs of vascular disease.

Vascular damage was seen in children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy, after adjusting for factors such as gender, breastfeeding and maternal age. The association between vascular damage and smoking was strongest if both parents smoked during pregnancy. However, no link was seen between vascular damage and mothers smoking only after pregnancy.

"Our study shows that tobacco smoke exposure during gestation has structural and functional effects on the vascular wall of young children," the authors wrote. "Clearly, fetuses are exposed to the many toxic constituents in tobacco smoke consumed by their mothers. It is conceivable that such influences contribute to very early life vascular damage."

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