Smoking while pregnant affects a growing baby. That much we already knew, right? But a new study has found that the effects of prenatal smoking may go beyond one generation. Researchers found that women who smoke while pregnant may not only cause health problems for their children, but also for their grandchildren.
Health experts already knew that exposure to smoke during pregnancy can damage a growing baby's lungs and predispose a child to asthma. But this new research, published recently in BMC Medicine
, leads some to believe that smoking in pregnancy can "switch on" bad genes, which are then passed on to future generations.
For the study, researchers from Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in California looked at the possible impacts that smoking could have on future generations. They tested the effect of prenatal nicotine exposure on rats, looking not only at their pups, named F1, but also at second generation pups, F2. As expected, they found that nicotine exposure in the womb caused the F1 offspring to have reduced lung function consistent with asthma. And they also found this impaired lung function in F1’s offspring (F2), even though these babies were never exposed to nicotine.
"The effects of smoking during pregnancy are, it seems very long lasting," said Dr. Virender Rehan, a lead author of the study. "Stop smoking education and intervention aimed at mothers-to-be and women planning pregnancy needs to take into account the fact that nicotine itself contains dangers to their children and their children’s children."