Prenatal Smoking Linked And Psychiatric Meds

Everyone knows by now that smoking cigarettes is dangerous. Not only does it affect the health of the smoker, it also affects the health of other people in the vicinity of the smoker. We also know that women who smoke during pregnancy can be responsible for long-term effects on their child's health. Such a child may end up with asthma or a tendency for ear infections.

Psychiatric Problems

Now, a new study coming out of Finland's Turku University Hospital suggests prenatal smoking can lead to psychiatric problems in the child that may follow him even into young adulthood. It seems that the act of smoking during pregnancy leads to an increase in the use of psychotropic medications for the resulting youngsters. This class of medication includes those prescribed for treating addiction, depression and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The rate of adolescents using these medications was much higher in those whose mothers had smoked during pregnancy when compared to teens whose mothers had refrained from prenatal smoking.

Lead author of the study, Mikael Ekblad, explains, "Recent studies show that maternal smoking during pregnancy may interfere with brain development of the growing fetus. By avoiding smoking during pregnancy, all the later psychiatric problems caused by smoking exposure could be prevented," Ekblad is a pediatric study author at Finland's Turku University Hospital.

Ekblad and his research team gathered information from the Finnish Medical Birth Register on children born in Finland from1987-1989. The data they evaluated included whether or not their mothers had smoked during pregnancy, plus their gestational ages, 5-minute Apgar scores and birth weights. Next, the researchers looked to see which of the youths used psychiatric medications.

Smoking Gun

Of the young adults in this study, 12.3% had used these medications and out of this number, the mothers of 19.2% of them had smoked during pregnancy. In those youths whose moms smoked more than half a pack a day during pregnancy, 16.9 % used psychotropic medication compared to 14.7 % of those whose moms smoked less than half a pack a day. Of those teens whose mothers had refrained from smoking, 11.7 % required some form of these medications.

Ekblad states that even though our knowledge about the harmful effects of smoking during pregnancy increases all the time, women continue to smoke while pregnant. Now that some long-term negative effects on the child's health have been proven, women should avoid smoking during gestation at all costs.

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