Secondhand Smoke Can Be Harmful Even Before Conception

Posted on January 7, 2017

There is a chemical component in tobacco that negatively impacts the way a fetus develops, affecting areas of the brain that involves learning, memory and emotional responses. These effects are more severe towards later stages of development, but animal studies discovered that there are lingering effects of tobacco that can even impact the neurological development of a fetus before it is conceived.

This has a serious public health implication. Theodore Slotkin, a professor at Duke University's Department Pharmacology & Cancer Biology, warns that not only do pregnant women need to avoid secondhand smoke, but so do all general women of child-bearing age. He and his team of researchers conducted experiments with rats where they extracted tobacco's chemical compounds into a solution and administered it through pumps. This eliminates the stress of breathing in smoke, which is another factor that can impact fetus development, to focus more on the after-effects of secondhand smoke in the body.

Slotkin and his team discovered that female rats before and after conception all had offspring with impaired functions of the brain related to memory and emotional behavior. It is not entirely known how the smoke affects development. One theory is that the chemical components of tobacco lingers in the body for a few days after experiencing secondhand smoke, which in return can affect later-conceived fetuses. Another theory is that these chemical components alter the mother's metabolism and hormones that could cause changes in the eggs.

Slotkin and his team also conducted another study involving e-cigarettes and found similar results. Overall, public health sectors should be place more awareness on smoking implications for all women of child-bearing age.

Category(s):Pregnancy & Birthing, Smoking Cessation

Source material from Science Daily

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