The dangers that tobacco poses to pregnant women are already well known. Nicotine as well as other toxic chemicals in smoke are harmful to fetuses. Nicotine in particular, which is capable of traversing the placental barrier, can affect the infant’s growth, but a new study suggests that the risks may be far worse.
In the United States, a research team at the University of Houston focused on the fetus’ exposure to nicotine while in utero. The results of the study suggest that smoking while pregnant alters the fetus’ neurons, resulting in an irreversible change in the infant’s cognitive processing abilities.
This added risk confirms just how dangerous smoking is for pregnant women. Up until now, nicotine was known for causing premature birth and sudden infant death. With these new findings, it remains crucial that pregnant women be fully informed about the dangers of smoking.
Altered neural capacity
The American study also sought out to prove that nicotine can also affect the dopaminergic neurons in infants, which release dopamine, a molecule that plays a major role in the development of potential addictions.
Smoking during pregnancy causes a rise in dopamine levels in the fetus, which means the baby could enter the world pre-disposed to tobacco dependence. Exposing infants to nicotine during pregnancy should thus be avoided at all costs.
These new results do not change what we know about the effects of tobacco on pregnant women, but they nevertheless serve as an important reminder of just how dangerous it is. For pregnant women, quitting tobacco can often be a challenge. However, it is essential that pregnant women avoid smoking, and they should seek the help of professionals if needed.