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Disturbing Ultrasounds Show How Unborn Babies React When Their Mothers Smoke

Scientists compared the results to babies whose mothers didn't touch cigarettes while pregnant.


Researchers from Durham and Lancaster universities released 4-D ultrasound images chronicling the mouth and body movements of fetuses when their mothers inhaled cigarette smoke. The findings were published in the Acta Paediatrica journal.

Over the course of the study, the researchers took 80 ultrasounds of 20 babies between the 24th and 36th weeks of pregnancy. Of the 20 cases, 16 babies had non-smoking mothers and four had smoking mothers. The mothers who smoked had an average of 14 cigarettes each day.

The results (in the photo above) show the babies whose moms inhaled smoke (top row) covering their faces and moving their mouths. The bottom row depicts the non-smokers. According to the Durham research, these pictures show that "fetuses whose mothers were smokers showed a significantly higher rate of mouth movements than the normal declining rate of movements expected in a fetus during pregnancy."

The higher-than-normal mouth movements of the babies who inhaled smoke (resembling what the Telegraph calls "grimacing") is further confirmation that nicotine is terrible for unborn children. This kind of behavior could indicate that the fetal central nervous system did not develop at the same rate in the babies who were exposed to smoke.


"These results point to the fact that nicotine exposure per se has an effect on fetal development over and above the effects of stress and depression," lead author of the study Dr. Nadja Reissland commented.

Dr. Reissland's co-author, professor Brian Francis confirmed: "Technology means we can now see what was previously hidden, revealing how smoking affects the development of the fetus in ways we did not realize. This is yet further evidence of the negative effects of smoking in pregnancy."

All 20 of the babies were clinically assessed upon their births and were born healthy, but both Dr. Reissland and Francis agree that more research needs to be conducted on the specifics of the higher rate of facial movements in babies who were exposed to smoke, possibly on the effects of a father's cigarette use too.


This article originally appeared on Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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