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New pregnancy smoking warning

Wednesday June 22nd 2011

The children of mothers who smoke in pregnancy may face a range of problems - and new research suggests these could include cholesterol.

A study of children aged eight has found they have low levels of the healthy form of cholesterol, high density lipoprotein - HDL.

Experts say this may mean they face accumulating high levels of unhealthy cholesterol as HDL helps clean it out of the body.

The research from Australia is published today in the European Heart Journal.

Amy Thompson, of the British Heart Foundation, said pregnant women should not wait for further research to give up smoking.

She said: "HDL helps to remove harmful cholesterol from your blood, and so having a higher level of HDL can help protect you from heart and circulatory disease later in life.

More research is needed to reveal the biological mechanics behind this link.

"However, mothers-to-be should not wait for this. Smoking during pregnancy poses many other well established risks to women and their unborn babies, and this study adds to that evidence.

"Stopping smoking has huge health benefits, so if you smoke and are pregnant, or plan to be, contact your GP for advice and support to help you quit.”

Researcher Professor David Celermajer, of the University of Sydney, Australia, said: "Our results suggest that maternal smoking imprints an unhealthy set of characteristics on children while they are developing in the womb, which may well predispose them to later heart attack and stroke.

"This imprinting seems to last for at least eight years and probably a lot longer.”

He added: "Children born to mothers who have smoked during pregnancy will need to be watched particularly carefully for other coronary risk factors, like high blood pressure, high LDL, ‘bad’ cholesterol levels, and especially cigarette smoking themselves."

* Smoking rates of pregnant women are declining in the UK, according to figures published yesterday.

Last year some 26 per cent of women smoked just before or during pregnancy - compared with 33 per cent in 2005. The biggest reduction was in Scotland - and the highest rates of smoking are now in Wales where a third of pregnant women are smokers.

Maternal cigarette smoking is associated with reduced high-density lipoprotein cholesterol in healthy 8-year-old children. Julian G. Ayer et al. European Heart Journal June 21 2011 doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehr174

Tags: Australia | Childbirth and Pregnancy | Child Health | Drug & Alcohol Abuse | Heart Health | UK News | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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