23 November 2009

New Research Links Tobacco Exposure During Pregnancy to Various Neuro-developmental Problems in Early Childhood

According to new research presented at the 2009 American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Annual Meeting, tobacco exposure during pregnancy has been found to be associated with disagreeableness in very young infants, inadequate concentration and information synthesizing during the first year of life, as well as impulsivity during the preschool years.

“We found that even in the first year of life, we can see differences in attention and irritability and in the regulation of emotions…Then at age 3, we saw that kids with prenatal tobacco exposure seem to have trouble waiting for an award, which ties in with findings that smoking during pregnancy can have a specific impact on the parts of the brain that are involved in regulating behavior, ''stated Dr. Sandra A. Wiebe, lead investigator and professor at the University of Alberta, Canada.

An estimated 10% to 30% of females in the United States use tobacco during pregnancy (Brauser, 2009). Last year in Tennessee, over 16,000 (18.8%) of mother’s giving birth in our state reported cigarette smoking during pregnancy . Over 1,100 (6.9%) of the birth mother’s reporting cigarette smoking during pregnancy gave birth in Shelby County (TN DOH, 2009).

Dr. Wiebe acknowledges that it can be difficult for mothers to quit smoking; however, she believes that information and education on the effects of prenatal tobacco exposure can help encourage moms to abstain. “We need to explain that it can affect how well a baby learns about the world, as well as how well they’re able to behave adaptively in various situations once they start preschool or kindergarten,” she suggested.

Local Resources

The Church Health Center's Hope and Healing Center offers health and wellness programs including weight loss classes and smoking cessation counseling. Their Freedom From Smoking program is eight weeks of group counseling designed to help participants kick the smoking habit. They offer sliding scale membership fees based on income and family size. For more information, please call 901-259-4673.

For more information on the well-being of young children in Memphis and Shelby County, please visit The Urban Child Institute website at http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org/Home/.


Brauser, D. (2009, November 9). Prenatal tobacco exposure linked to multiple problems. Medscape Medical News.

Tennessee Department of Health, Division of Health Statistics. Personal Communication, November 12, 2009.

1 comment:

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