Study: Smoking during pregnancy could lead to child's weight, drug issues

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wwltv.com

Posted on September 27, 2012 at 5:52 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 27 at 6:01 PM

Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
Email: mfarris@wwltv.com | Twitter: @megfarriswwl

NEW ORLEANS - We've reported in the past, pregnant women who don't get enough fish oil, could have a child at higher risk of battling weight problems.

Well now there's new science suggesting there is something else during pregnancy that can cause weight and health problems in the child for the rest of his or her life.

Past research has also found that pregnant women who are overweight, diabetic, or just have high blood sugar, are more likely to have children who battle weight. The baby is born big with more fat and less muscle to process the sugar.

"Their organs can't deal with the metabolism that makes them want to use sugar as a fuel. So what happens is they can't use fat as a fuel, the fat gets stored, they're already overweight and it's just a vicious cycle," explained Dr. Melinda Sothern who has done extensive research in childhood obesity at LSU Health Sciences Center's School of Public Health.

Now, new research finds women who smoke during pregnancy are also more likely to have teens with weight as well as drug problems.

"They did not have the neurological signaling to convince them that, when they ate foods that were very rich or high in calories, that they were full," she said about the study. "And the reason for that is there is a part of the brain that is responsible for rewards. It's called the amygdala. It was smaller in these teens."

So signaling in the brain to stop a behavior is altered. In the study, as few as 11 cigarettes a day caused the permanent brain deficit.

"There's been a few studies actually that have shown that in women who smoke, their offspring are also more likely to have substance abuse problems. So that's been known, but now it's being related to overeating, binge eating disorder, you know binging and not being able to stop eating, those sort of favorite foods," Said Dr. Sothern.

Genes can even be altered if your grandmother smoked during pregnancy.

"They come into our clinic every day, these teen age girls, and they tell us they're never satisfied. They're always hungry," she added.

This is just another of the thousands of health reasons to get treatment for the addiction to nicotine.

Dr. Sothern says three things contributed to the obesity epidemic starting with the baby boomers: Women had babies close in age, not allowing time for her body to be fully ready for sustaining the next pregnancy. Women post WWII were less likely to breast feed for at least four months, which can be protective against the risk for the child to be obese. And smoking was popular in that era. All of these issues have since been shown by research to contribute to obesity risk.

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