Babies born to women who quit smoking in pregnancy are better behaved than the children of heavy smokers and non-smokers, a new study has found.
The British study, which involved 19,000 babies born between 2000 and 2002, found that at nine months, babies whose mothers had stopped smoking while pregnant scored higher for positive moods, the ability to cope with change and had more regular sleeping and feeding patterns.
Writing in the British Medical Journal yesterday, researchers from the University of York said the difference was "striking", even taking other factors into account, such as birth weight, household income and mother's level of education.
They suggested not only were these babies exposed to fewer toxins in the womb, but mothers who were able to stop smoking for the sake of their unborn child passed on positive characteristics such as self-restraint and the ability to change behaviour according to changing circumstances.
Heavy smoking (more than 10 cigarettes a day) by mothers was associated with difficult moods in babies - an indicator of antisocial behaviour in later life.
A survey by the Auckland Tobacco Control Research Centre at Auckland University suggests Kiwi midwives and doctors are not doing enough to warn women about smoking during pregnancy.
Of 150 GPs and 200 midwives who took part in the survey, only 11 per cent of midwives and 71 per cent of doctors advised expectant mothers to quit. Most said they encouraged "a reduction".
The study, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal today, also found of those who did offer women help to quit, half were offering them the wrong kind of nicotine replacement therapy.
The Health Ministry recommends that pregnant women use nicotine gum, inhalers and lozenges rather than patches, which expose the foetus to higher levels of the chemical.
Centre director Marewa Glover said GPs and midwives were in a position to offer smoking advice to pregnant women, "when motivation to quit is at its highest".
"However, the message that smoking abstinence is vital for the health of the developing child does not seem to be consistently delivered, particularly by midwives."
Hutt Valley midwife Siobhan Connor said she always stressed the importance of stopping smoking to pregnant women, but some women found it impossible to give up completely.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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