Ultrasound Images Suggest A Scary Effect Of Smoking On Unborn Babies

Despite the known risks associated with smoking during pregnancy, roughly 10 percent of expectant mothers in the U.S. still smoke while pregnant.

But some alarming new images might make expectant mothers think twice about continuing a smoking habit during pregnancy.

Using high-definition ultrasound scans, scientists have shown that maternal smoking can alter the mouth and hand movements of the fetus, a finding that suggests some impairment of the fetus' central nervous system development.

The study's lead author, Dr. Nadja Reissland of England's Durham University, hopes these images will one day be used as educational tools to help expectant mothers make healthier choices.

"[Ideally], when we show mothers... these videos of fetuses showing increased movement, they will be more inclined to stop smoking," said Reissland in a video by the Press Association, a U.K. media organization.

Researchers from Durham and Lancaster Universities in the U.K. analyzed 80 high-definition ultrasound scans of 20 fetuses, collected at 24 and 36 weeks into the pregnancy, in order to observe their mouth and hand movements. Four fetuses were being carried by mothers who smoked an average of 14 cigarettes per day, while the other fetuses were carried by mothers who did not smoke.

The researchers saw that the fetuses whose mothers smoked displayed a rate of mouth movements significantly higher than normal. Typically, fetuses do move their mouths and touch themselves, but this movement tends to decline as birth approaches and the fetus gains more control over its motor functions.



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