Research done by the Liggins Institute has that a woman Smoking during pregnancy can increase the chance of daughters growing up short and developing obesity as adults by 50 per cent
The researchers say the chemicals from cigarettes travel through the mum’s bloodstream to the baby and may turn genes involved in controlling growth on or off. It appears that harmful chemicals in cigarettes change the way babies’ genes are expressed.
The study looked at daughters and is based on a cohort of 30,000 Swedish women born between 1973-1988.
Previous research that linked Swedish birth register data on mothers with army conscript register data on their young adult sons found similarly heightened risks for obesity and short stature in the sons.
Lead investigator Dr José Derraik, a senior research fellow from the University of Auckland-based Liggins Institute and A Better Start National Science Challenge, says “In simple terms, they may turn on or off genes involved in controlling growth.”
The new study, published this week in Scientific Reports, is the latest in a series by researchers from the Institute and from Uppsala University in Sweden. The team has been analysing a rich body of data on Swedish women and their children from national registers to better understand the long-term effects of early life events and conditions that occur before, during, and after pregnancy.
The researchers analysed measurements from 29,451 Swedish women born in 1973-1988 taken at an average age of 26 years. Forty-two percent of the women’s mothers had reported at their first antenatal visit (around 10-12 weeks into their pregnancy) that they smoked.
The risk of obesity was higher in daughters of mothers who were heavier smokers, compared to those who smoked fewer than 10 cigarettes a day.
Dr Derraik: “When a woman smokes during pregnancy, chemicals from the cigarettes travel through her bloodstream across the placenta and then to the baby, permanently changing the way the baby’s body uses and stores energy. Some of these chemicals can interfere with growth, which probably explains why babies born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy are often smaller.”