You know how bad it is to light up when you’re pregnant. But this might be the most distressing evidence yet.
For a new study published in the journal Acta Paediatrica, researchers from the United Kingdom used 4D ultrasound technology to scan 20 expectant moms four times each between 24 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. They were paying particular attention to the fetuses’ facial movements and self-touch. Sixteen of the women were nonsmokers, and four of them smoked an average of 14 cigarettes a day.
The researchers already believed that stress and depression could impact fetal movements, and that seemed to be the case in this study, too—but smoking set the red flags waving in a more major way. “Fetal facial movement patterns differ significantly between fetuses of mothers who smoked, compared to those of mothers who didn’t smoke,” said lead author Nadja Reissland, of Durham University’s department of psychology, in a press release about the study. The researchers also write in the paper that they found similar effects for fetal self-touch, though not significant ones.
Check out the distinction between the two fetuses below. The image features two 4-D scans showing a sequence of movements by a 32-week-old fetus whose mom is a smoker (top) and a 32-week-old fetus whose mom is a nonsmoker (bottom). Startling, right?
A happy note: “All fetuses were clinically assessed and declared to be healthy after birth,” write the study authors.
And a few caveats here: This is a prelimary study, so more research needs to be done to confirm the results. The researchers also note that they did not control for social class or look into the dads’ smoking behavior. To learn eight myths about quitting smoking, click here. And make sure you have a look at these tips for a happy and healthy pregnancy.
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