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Birth defects from smoking revealed

Tuesday July 12th, 2011

Babies born to mothers who smoke are at risk from a devastating list of birth defects, researchers said today.

Missing limbs, club foot, facial disorders and gastrointestinal problems are among the results of exposing an unborn baby to tobacco, according to researchers from University College London, UK.

Studies involving a total of more than 11 million people have shown the risk of these problems increased by between 26 per cent and 50 per cent when a mother smoked.

Researchers said as many as 45 per cent of women under 20 in the UK would carry on smoking if they got pregnant.

The findings were published in the journal Human Reproduction.

Researcher Professor Allan Hackshaw said women were not always told the full risks.

He said: "People may think that few women still smoke when pregnant. But the reality is that, particularly in women under 20, the numbers are still staggeringly high.

"Maternal smoking during pregnancy is a well established risk factor for miscarriage, low birthweight and premature birth. However, very few public health educational policies mention birth defects when referring to smoking."

Midwives pledged to step up efforts to warn pregnant women of the risks.

Janet Fyle, of the Royal College of Midwives, said: "The RCM believes that women thinking of becoming pregnant, pregnant women and women with young children should be told about the negative effects of smoking and the impact on their long-term health and that of others living in the home.

" Midwives should advise women who smoke to give up smoking and refer them to stop smoking services to help them quit."

Basky Thilaganathan, of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said the findings were "important," adding "Pregnant women need to be informed of the risks of smoking during pregnancy and should be offered advice and support to help them give up.

"Women who are unable to quit smoking should be encouraged to reduce smoking as much as they can."

Human Reproduction July 12 2011

Tags: Childbirth and Pregnancy | Drug and Alcohol Abuse | Nursing & Midwifery | UK News | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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