Women who continue smoking throughout their pregnancy increase the risk of having a child with behavioural problems and hyperactivity, a study has found.
The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health believe that smoke inhaled through the womb can affect the developing structure of the baby’s brain.
Researchers from York, Hull and Illinois looked at more than 14,000 mums who admitted to smoking throughout their pregnancy for the Millennium Cohort Study. The women were then divided into light or heavy smokers.
Light smokers were 44% more likely to have boys with behavioural problems rising to 80% for heavy smokers compared with non-smokers. Both heavy and light smokers were found to be more likely to have boys with hyperactivity and attention deficit disorders.
The girls fared slightly differently with both light and heavy smokers having three-year-girls with behavioural problems, but not hyperactivity or attention problems.
This is not the first time smoking in pregnancy has been linked to mental health issues for unborn children, with previous reports linking it to psychotic problems.
Professor Kate Pickett, the leader of the study, told the BBC, “Smoking in pregnancy may have direct effects to the foetal development of brain structure and functioning.”