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Smoking while pregnant raises risk of birth defects

12th July 2011

Doctors from University College London have said women should be told that smoking while pregnant increases the risk of deformities in their baby.

pregnancy 

Figures have shown that women who smoke have a 25% increased danger of giving birth to a child with a cleft lip, or missing or deformed limbs. 

The experts said the evidence, added to the increased danger of miscarriage and low birth weight, were excellent incentives to get women to give up smoking.

Data has shown that 17% of women carry on smoking during their pregnancy, with 45% of women aged under 20 continuing to smoke.

Researchers have estimated that hundreds of deformities are directly linked to the fact that a baby's mother was a smoker.

Around 3,700 babies are born every year in England and Wales with physical defects.

The researchers looked at 172 papers from the last fifty years and found that women who smoked had an increased danger of giving birth to a baby with a physical defect.

They said that the risk of having a baby with a cleft palate was increased by 28%, while the danger of missing limbs was 26%.

The highest increase for women who smoked was giving birth to a baby with a condition called gastroschisis, where the intestines protrude through the skin.

Professor Allan Hackshaw, who headed the study said: "There's still this idea among some women that if you smoke the baby will be small and that will make it easier when it comes to the delivery.

"But what is not appreciated is that smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of defects in the child that are life-long."

 

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