(RxWiki News) We've known for decades that smoking during pregnancy is potentially damaging for the baby, and has been linked to various birth defects, premature birth, underdeveloped lungs, low birthweight and many other problems.
Researchers in The Netherlands have uncovered one more complication: damaged blood vessels in the baby.
"If you're pregnant, you should never smoke."
Cuno S.P.M. Uiterwaal, MD, PhD, and colleagues from University Medical Center Utrecht studied 259 children. The children were evaluated at one month of age, and then again at five years old when they also underwent carotid ultrasound examinations.
Both parents also completed questionnaires about their smoking history.
At the age of five, the intima-media thickness of arterial vessel walls in the children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy was 18.8 µm thicker than those who were not exposed to prenatal smoking.
This thicker blood vessel wall is linked to cardiovascular disease and early atherosclerosis in adults. Also, the children of smoking mothers had a 15 percent lower arterial distensibility (ability of the artery to stretch during the pumping of blood).
These associations were not present in children whose mothers had not smoked during pregnancy, but smoked after birth. However, the effect on the children's arteries was even more pronounced if the father also smoked during pregnancy.
"It's another reason for pregnant women to stop smoking, at least during pregnancy," said Dr. Uiterwaal.
The results were published online in December 2011 in the journal Pediatrics.