Children whose mothers were exposed to secondhand smoke during pregnancy were more likely to have behavior problems than kids whose moms avoided exposure to tobacco smoke.
These new findings come from a study conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Nursing. For the study, researchers collected data from 646 mother-and-child pairs in China, where more than 70 percent of men smoke. They concluded that behavioral problems were evident in 25 percent of the children whose mothers were exposed to cigarette smoke during pregnancy. In comparison, 16 percent of children whose mothers were not exposed to smoke experienced behavioral difficulties.
Behavior problems were defined as attention deficits and aggression. Researchers also noted that children whose mothers were exposed to secondhand smoke had lower scores in speech and language skills and overall intelligence.
It was no secret that cigarette smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke during pregnancy are horrible for both the mother's health and the health of her still-developing baby. Prenatal exposure to tobacco products has been linked to an increased risk for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, low birth weight, respiratory problems and other negative health effects. But researchers think this new data will support laws that restrict public smoking and may also convince more mothers to steer clear of tobacco smoke during pregnancy.
"Such findings could inform public health efforts to reduce public smoking and underscores the need for including [environmental tobacco smoke] avoidance as a potential component of prenatal care among pregnant women," said lead author Dr. Jianghong-Liu, associate professor at the School of Nursing.
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