Smoking in pregnancy linked to reduced lung function in offspring

MedWire News: Maternal smoking during pregnancy is associated with poorer lung function among offspring in early adulthood, results of an Australian study show.

Lead researcher M Hayatbakhsh (University of Queensland, Herston) and team explain that there is strong evidence to suggest that in utero exposure to maternal smoking results in childhood lung function deficits.

However, they add: “There is uncertainty about whether this effect persists to early adulthood or whether there may be a period of catch-up growth.”

The researchers therefore assessed data on 2409 young adults and their mothers who participated in the Mater–University of Queensland Study of Pregnancy.

The team compared maternal smoking during and after pregnancy with lung function in offspring at the age of 21 years.

Overall, 38.5% of mothers reported smoking during pregnancy, 43.4% smoked when their child was aged 6 months, 36.8% smoked when their child was aged 5 years, and 31.4% smoked when their child was aged 14 years. Nearly half (49.1%) of mothers did not smoke at any time during the study period.

Analysis revealed that, in males, exposure to maternal smoking during the pregnancy or when the child was aged 6 months or 14 years was associated with significant reductions in FEV1 and forced expiratory flow of between 25% and 75% of forced vital capacity (FEF25–75) at the age of 21 years, compared with non-exposure.

The effects of in utero tobacco smoke exposure on lung function in young men was partly mediated by lower birth weights and increased asthma rates among offspring born to mothers who smoked, compared with offspring born to nonsmokers.

Maternal smoking during or after pregnancy was not associated with reduced respiratory function among young women.

Hayatbakhsh and team conclude in the journal Thorax: “Exposure to in utero smoking, regardless of maternal smoking postnatally, has a significant, though modest, effect on lung function in the offspring, specifically males.”

They add: “The data presented in our study suggest clinical and public health implications. Reducing the burden of chronic respiratory diseases associated with tobacco smoke may… require the reduction of smoking among women during their childbearing years, and in particular during pregnancy.”


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