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Fetal tobacco syndrome

If a pregnant woman is simply in a smoky room, then through the inhaled air she still exposes the fetus to torment. The embryo’s sensitivity to tobacco smoke is so high that it reacts even to the fictitious smoking of the parents, that is, to cigarettes that have not yet been lit (!). This is a purely psychological reaction. From the point of view of biochemistry, it is inexplicable.

When a woman smokes herself, her child, figuratively speaking, is tightly sealed in a womb filled with poisons. Because of acute oxygen starvation and poisoning by the decay products of cigarette smoke, he “coughs”, “chokes”, rushes about like a prisoner in a gas chamber. 8–12 minutes after the mother smoked a cigarette, the fetal heart rate increases to 150 beats per minute. Together with nutrients, the mother also transfers to him the poisons of tobacco smoke, and in rather high concentrations. First, they enter the baby’s bloodstream, then accumulate in his brain, liver and heart. Poisoning of the whole organism gradually develops.

Now we will not focus on where the tobacco smoke comes from: whether the mother herself smokes or inhales the tobacco smoke of the people around her. Since the nature of the influence of harmful compounds on the embryo in these cases is approximately the same, the degree and time of their exposure matter.

Unfortunately, toxic substances from tobacco smoke pass through the placenta (baby seat). Therefore, the fetus receives them directly from the mother’s blood, as well as through the skin and the gastrointestinal tract from the amniotic fluid. In addition, tobacco smoke constricts blood vessels and restricts the supply of nutrients to the fetus through the placenta. This partly explains the intrauterine growth retardation and the decrease in the child’s body weight.

About a third of newborns with low birth weight are from mothers who smoke.

The body of a smoking woman compensates for its hormonal deficiency at the expense of the endocrine system of the fetus, as if “drinking”, “stealing” it. It is natural that the formation of bones in a child slows down and protein synthesis suffers. Hormonal imbalances are inherited.

Neonatal skull size and maternal smoking rate

Swedish researchers have compared the development of the brain and the size of the skull of newborns with the intensity of the mother’s smoking during pregnancy. The circumference of the skull is normal – about 35 cm (depending on the weight of the baby). The probability that a newborn’s head circumference is less than 32 cm increases 1.52 times in women who smoke up to 10 cigarettes a day and 41.86 times if a woman smokes more than 10 cigarettes.

Exposure to tobacco smoke before birth leads to stunted lung growth and respiratory disease with shortness of breath. This influence affects the respiratory system of a person throughout his life (especially in preschool age). The high risk of premature birth and prematurity also poses the risk that the lungs of children of parents who smoke will be weakened.

All this allows us to talk about fetal passive smoking, or about fetal tobacco syndrome (by analogy with alcohol syndrome). 

Children of mothers who smoke are 30% more likely than the descendants of nonsmokers to have diabetes or obesity by the age of 16. Also, mothers who smoke are 34% more likely to have children with congenital clubfoot. And if the habit is also combined with unfavorable heredity, then the risk of clubfoot increases 20 times!

The link between smoking during pregnancy and cleft face

The “frightening” discoveries do not end there. In 2003, British scientists identified a link between smoking early in pregnancy and having a baby with a cleft face. According to the author of the study, Professor of the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Dundee, Peter Mossi , the formation of the palate occurs 6-8 weeks after conception; a harmful addiction of a mother during this period can manifest itself in a child in the form of a “cleft palate” or “cleft lip”. Indeed, 42% of mothers whose babies were born with facial defects smoked. In infants of non-smoking mothers, such deviations are observed 2 times less often.

British doctors concluded that children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy had a 40% higher risk of developing autism. With this mental illness, a person does not have full contact with the surrounding reality, withdraws into himself, closes himself in the world of his own experiences and sensations. Reality in the mind of such a patient looks distorted. Scientists suggest that smoking in the mother impairs the supply of oxygen to the fetus’s brain and affects the special structures responsible for psychomotor functions.

The behavior of children in the first years of life is more problematic in mothers who smoked from conception to childbirth. Thus, negativism in two-year-old babies is 4 times higher than in children of those who either stopped smoking during pregnancy or did not start at all. ” Smoking ” the fetus contributes to the fact that the born will show anxiety, depression, impulsivity, rebelliousness, a tendency to take risks and unmotivated aggression (for example, hitting or biting others).

Inattention, impulsivity, disinhibition

German scientists have shown that a child of a smoking mother from an early age is characterized by inattention, impulsivity, disinhibition and hyperactivity. His mental development is usually below average. The so-called “Fidget Phil” syndrome is also often noted. Such babies, as a rule, are aggressive and easily deceive the people around them.

If a child lives in an apartment where one of the family members smokes 1-2 packs of cigarettes a day, then such a child’s urine contains an amount of nicotine corresponding to 2-3 smoked cigarettes. When one or both parents smoke at home, the child is more likely to develop colds, bronchitis, pneumonia, gastritis, colitis, stomach and duodenal ulcers. Fathers and mothers who smoke “reward” their children with a tendency to respiratory infections, allergies, atherosclerosis, epileptic seizures and tooth decay.

Passive smokers’ teeth

Scientists from the University of Rochester (New York) examined about 4 thousand children aged 4 to 10 years. Experts compared the content of tobacco smoke decay products in their blood with the condition of their teeth. In parallel, information was collected on the frequency of visits to the dentist, family income and the quality of the child’s nutrition. The conclusions are quite eloquent: all other things being equal, young “passive smokers” had almost twice as many “holes” in their teeth than their peers from non-smoking families!

In children exposed to intrauterine exposure to tobacco smoke, intellectual potential decreases, the development of speech and the auditory area of ​​the brain, the ability to regulate emotions, focus and retain attention is impaired. In newborns, this is manifested, in particular, by a reduced response to sounds. Between the ages of 1 and 11, such children usually perform poorly on exercises related to hearing (language tasks, memory for words, etc.). Lagging behind in physical and mental development (reading, writing, speaking), the child copes worse with the school curriculum …

Crime addiction

An international team of researchers from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, found a direct relationship between smoking in pregnant women and the subsequent propensity of their children to commit crimes. In a single connection, the experts examined information about 4 thousand men born in Copenhagen from September 1951 to December 1961, and the history of their arrests, stored in the archives of the police. It turned out that those men whose mothers smoked during pregnancy, by the age of 34, were 1.6 times more likely to go to prison for non-violent crimes and 2 times more often for violent ones.

To paraphrase a well-known song, let’s say: parental smoke is the beginning of many childhood ailments. Moreover, the harm from smoking is transmitted even through a generation! This sensational statement was made by Frank Gilliland and his colleague from the University of Southern California.


Scientists examined 338 children with asthma under the age of 5 years, and 570 children without this disease. In children of mothers who smoke, the risk of developing asthma is 1.5 times higher than in children of nonsmokers. If the mothers of these mothers (that is, grandmothers) also smoked during pregnancy, then the risk of morbidity in a grandson or granddaughter will be 2.6 times higher. Imagine another situation: the child’s mother does not smoke, but the grandmother, when she was pregnant with her, smoked. Then the risk of developing asthma in a grandson (granddaughter) is 2 times higher than in a non-smoking family.

The exact mechanism of transmission of propensity to illness through the generation is unknown. Probably, damage to the girl’s immune system occurs before birth, which is then inherited by her future son or daughter.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

But, of course, the most irreparable thing is sudden infant death syndrome. “Death in the cradle” is the death of a healthy baby in the first year of his life. What are the reasons for this seemingly unreasonable tragedy? Risk factors include: the position of a sleeping baby on his stomach in an overly warm room, on a fluffy bed, as well as increased vagus nerve tone, postpartum depression in the mother and … tobacco smoke! Smoking is the most dangerous and also the most preventable of all factors. It increases the risk of sudden death by an average of 7 times, and the next most important factor (postpartum depression) by 3 times.

Many of the dead babies are from disadvantaged families. More than half of these unfortunate children are boys. Gemini are at increased risk. Most deaths occur before 13 weeks of age. Moreover, 27% of deaths could have been prevented if women did not smoke after giving birth. Scientists also stated that 55% of deaths could have been avoided if mothers had breastfed their children.

By the way, returning to smoking soon after childbirth, the mother often interrupts breastfeeding ahead of schedule. Meanwhile, children fed with mother’s milk are much less likely to face many problems and diseases than bottle-fed babies. Therefore, the child’s right to health is not least determined by his right to breast milk. And tobacco smoke reduces the quality and quantity of this priceless product. In addition, when it gets to a child with mother’s milk, it causes a number of undesirable effects (anxiety, rapid heart rate, vomiting, upset stools, intestinal colic, etc.). Conversations with girls who smoke about the benefits of breastfeeding often encourage them to change their behavior.

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