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Smoking in pregnancy harms children's blood vessels

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By Maria Cendejas

Thursday Dec 29, 2011 (foodconsumer.org) -- A new study in Pediatrics shows that if women didn’t already have enough reasons to quit smoking before pregnancy, here’s a big one: smoking during pregnancy may set their child up for blood vessel damage, according to an article in Webmd.

Dutch scientists enrolled more than 250 children. Their body dimensions and lung function were measured when the children were 4 weeks old. Their parents also completed questionnaires about smoking during pregnancy. They collected updated smoking information from their parents.

Researchers used ultrasound when the children were 5 years old to measure the thickness and flexibility of their carotid arteries, large blood vessels in the neck that supply blood to the brain.

Mothers of 5-year olds who smoked during their pregnancy, their wall of carotid arteries were about 19 microns thicker, which is about 1 to 2 times the thickness of a piece of cassette tape, and 15% stiffer than those whose mothers didn't smoke.

If both parents smoked while the baby was still  in the womb, the children’s carotid arteries were nearly 28 microns thicker and 21% stiffer than those whose parents didn’t smoke during pregnancy. The authors in the study suggest that these changes may indicate damage to blood vessels that may affect their function.

Scientists didn't find any effect if only the father smoked during the pregnancy, or if the mother hadn’t started smoking until after giving birth.

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