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Shocking sonogram shows how smoking affects unborn babies

Monica Beyer is a mom of four and has been writing professionally since 2000, when her first book, Baby Talk, was published. Her main area of interest is attachment parenting and all that goes with it, including breastfeeding, co-sleepin...

Ultrasound reveals what smoking does to fetuses and it's not pretty

We've known for decades that experts recommend against smoking cigarettes during pregnancy, but newly released images give a clearer story.

Durham University, Lancaster University and Dr. Nadja Reissland conducted a study on smoking and pregnancy by following 20 mothers. Four of those moms smoked an average of 14 cigarettes per day, and the other 16 did not smoke. The mothers participated in regular ultrasound scans during their pregnancies to note fetal movement and other factors.

The babies of the mothers who smoked were found to touch their faces more, and they had a significantly higher rate of mouth movement — both signs of delayed development. Usually a fetus that is developing normally shows a decreased rate of both as a pregnancy progresses. This indicates that maternal smoking seems to affect the normal development of a baby's central nervous system.

"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," study co-author Brian Francis of Lancaster University said. "This is yet further evidence of the negative effects of smoking in pregnancy."

The researchers hope the images and their findings will be able to be used in the future to help moms-to-be to quit smoking. Smoking is terribly difficult to give up for many, even when you have the best reasons in the world to do so — your health and the health of your child. While all the infants in this particular study were examined and declared to be normal at birth, effects of maternal smoking can be felt for a lifetime.

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