Smoking During Pregnancy-Ultrasound Pictures Reveal What is Happening
Nowadays, with the high-resolution 4D ultrasound scans we can actually see how smoking during pregnancy affects unborn fetuses. Researches found distinctive differences in the rates of movement of those fetuses whose moms smoked.
The study describes how the new and revolutionary 4D ultrasound technology helps to find answer to the questions related to fetal subtle movements. Previous methodologies were inadequate to address this. 20 pregnant women took participation in this study over a period of three-month. Four moms were actually smokers who were smoking about 14 cigarettes a day, and 16 were non-smokers. Each woman was scanned 4 times within this study period.
By assessing the rates of movement captured by these high-resolution images and videos the researchers found differences in the rates of mouth movements. It also measured how many times the hands of the fetuses touched their faces. It is a fetal subtle movement called self-touch. Fetuses of smoking moms showed significantly higher rates of mouth movements compared to those of nonsmoking mothers. Depression and stress also affect a lot fetal movements and so the analysis collected data on maternal stress and depression of each mother who participated in the study.
Previous Known Effects of Smoking During Pregnancy
These effects include:
- Decreased oxygen affects neurological development of the fetus.
- Delayed lung development as a result of reduced frequency of fetal breathing movements.
- Increased risk of pregnancy complications
- Brain and lung tissue damage; some studies suggests a link between cleft lip and maternal smoking.
- Early delivery of babies. Preterm delivery is a leading cause of disability, death, and disease among newborns.
- One in every five babies has low birth weight born to mothers who smoke during pregnancy. Mothers who are on secondhand smoke exposure during pregnancy are more likely to have lower birth weight babies.
- Increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Babies whose mothers smoke are about three times more likely to die from SIDS.
- Long-term consequences because of altered immune function.
- Double or even triple the risk of stillbirth.
Effects of Depression and Stress on Fetal Movement
The study also had to account for the mother’s depression and stress levels because stress has also been found to have big influence on neurobehavioral development in fetuses. The researchers explain in the article that one study of maternal stress and upper limb movements of fetuses found that elevated stress resulted in jerkier arm movements. High levels of stress may be a risk factor for developmental disorders as stress actually alters the biochemical equilibrium in the uterus. Stress is also the reason number one why in the first place pregnant women smoke.
To make sure the researchers had the data to assess the effects of smoking as well as the effects from depression and stress, the mothers in the study at each scan session completed the widely used Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale as well as Perceived Stress Scale questionnaire. After coding the scans for the 4,528 mouth movement events and the 1,114 facial touch events recorded, the researchers used statistical analyses to look deeper into effects of smoking, age of the mothers, fetal sex and age. The fetuses whose mothers smoked showed a much higher rate of movements. This suggests that central nervous systems develop differently depending on whether the mothers smoked or not during pregnancy.
This methodology is a first of its kind and was largely a proof-of-concept study. Scientists will need larger study with a higher sample size to investigate specific effects and to confirm the results, including the interaction of smoking and maternal stress.
Watch the following video to see the 4D scans that can show what smoking does to an unborn baby.