Smoking during pregnancy could alter babies’ facial movement in the womb

WASHINGTON — The harmful effects of smoking on developing babies could also contribute to their behavior in the womb.

New research looked at the ultrasounds of 16 nonsmoker mothers and four mothers who smoke. Researchers found that the fetuses of the smokers tended to touch their faces and move their mouths more than the developing babies of the nonsmoking mothers, according to a report by USA Today.

The ultrasounds were given at several stages of prenatal development.

The researchers believe that the high rates of mouth movement is an indication that the central nervous system of the smokers’ unborn babies did not develop at the same rate as the other fetuses, according to Durham University, where some of the researchers work.

All babies touch them selves and move while in the womb but those movements tend to decrease over time. The movements of the babies of the smoker moms showed less mature behavior, USA Today reported.

“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,” said co-author Brian Francis, of Lancaster University in a statement.

The study authors suggested that a larger study is warranted to confirm the results and to better understand the effect of a mother’s smoking on stress, depression and fetal development.

Smoking during pregnancy can contribute to low birth weight, birth defects, asthma and even sudden infant death syndrome.

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