Theres one more reason not to smoke during pregnancy. A mothers cigarette smoking increases the risk that her newborn may have extra, webbed or missing fingers or toes, according to a study in the January issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
Although the overall risk of these abnormalities in fingers and toes is relatively low, just half a pack of cigarettes per day increases the risk to the baby by 29 percent, compared to non-smokers. Because limbs develop very early in pregnancy, the effect may occur even before a woman knows she is pregnant.
"We found that the more a woman smoked, the higher the risk became that the baby would have these defects," said study leader Benjamin Chang, M.D., pediatric plastic and reconstructive surgeon at The Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia. Dr. Chang and co-author Li-Xing Man, M.Sc., both of Childrens Hospital and the University of Pennsylvania, reviewed the records of more than 6.8 million live births listed in the U.S. Natality database from 2001 and 2002. It was the largest study of its kind, covering 84 percent of U.S. births.
The researchers divided the study population into four groups: non-smokers, those who smoked one to ten cigarettes daily, 11 to 20 cigarettes daily, and 21 or more per day. There was a statistically significant dose-response effect, with increased odds of having a newborn with a congenital digital anomaly with increased maternal cigarette smoking during pregnancy. Women who smoked up to half a pack a day were 29 percent more likely to have babies with digital anomalies and women who smoked more than a pack of cigarettes a day during pregnancy were 78 percent more likely to have babies with digital anomalies.
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