Pregnant Women Who Smoke Risk Having Babies with Oral-Facial Clefts
ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND -- August 20, 2004 -- Pregnant women who smoke have a greater risk of having babies with cleft lips or cleft palates, according to a recent study (Cleft Palate Craniofac J. 2004 Jul; 41(4): 381-6). This risk increases with the amount that the woman smokes.
The study involved 190 infants born with oral cleft and 248 controls matched with these cases by sex, date of birth, and location. If a woman smoked during the first trimester of her pregnancy, her baby was 1.9 times more likely to be born with a cleft lip with or without a cleft palate than the baby of a nonsmoking mother. That figure increased to 2.3 times for a cleft palate alone. There was some evidence that a pregnant woman's exposure to secondhand smoke also effected whether her baby had a cleft lip or palate, but the statistics were not adequate to confirm that conclusion.
A cleft is a separation in a body structure that may occur in early fetal development. Normally, the lip closes by about 6 weeks after conception, and the palate by 10 weeks. The lip or the lip and palate together fail to close in about 1 in every 1,000 babies born. Children with oral-facial clefts may have dental problems, ear disease, and trouble with feeding and speech. They should be treated by a team of specialists that includes pediatricians, dentists, speech pathologists, plastic surgeons, and hearing specialists (Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate, March of Dimes).
Other Effects of Maternal Smoking on Infants
Each year about 12 million women worldwide smoke during pregnancy (Bull World Health Organ, Mar. 2004, vol.82, no.3, p.213-218). Besides increasing the risk of oral-facial clefts in newborns, smoking during pregnancy leads to premature births and low birth weights. Low birth weights are the leading cause of infant mortality, resulting in more than 300,000 deaths annually in the United States alone (Surgeon General's Report, Reproductive Effects of Smoking).
If a pregnant woman smokes, her child's risk for SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome also increases. In one report, infants of mothers who smoked both during and after pregnancy had a risk for SIDS that was almost three times greater than that of infants born to mothers who did not smoke (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Smoking and Reproductive Outcomes ).
Information About the Hazards of Tobacco Use
The authors of the study on maternal smoking and oral-facial clefts discussed the many problems that a mother's smoking causes for her newborn child. They suggested that their findings about oral-facial clefts be included in future anti-smoking campaigns, along with information about the other health problems that tobacco causes for families.
For more details about women and tobacco, see Women Smokers' Lung Cancer Risk Twice That of Men and Smoking Among Mothers of Young Children. For ideas about how to quit smoking, see Tobacco Information and Prevention, and Smokefree.gov.