Smoking or using tobacco products during pregnancy can increase a child’s risk of developing Attention Deficit Disorder and behavioral and learning problems.
It is fairly well known that smoking while pregnant can cause miscarriage, low fetal birth weight, pre-term delivery, and an increased risk for death from SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Children of smoking mothers may also develop asthma, frequent colds, pneumonia, and physical growth problems.
What is not so commonly talked about is the link between smoking while pregnant and Attention Deficit Disorder, hyperactivity, behavioral problems and learning disabilities.
Smoking Disrupts Normal Fetal Brain Cell Activity
According to Richard Pressinger, M.Ed., at least one-third of women of reproductive age smoke cigarettes regularly. Of these women, at least 30% smoke during pregnancy. Pressinger’s research has shown that fetal exposure to tobacco products disrupts the normal activity of the central nervous system. The increased amount of carbon monoxide in the fetal bloodstream combined with the decreased amount of oxygen flowing to the baby causes a significant decrease in brain cell quality.
This disruption in normal brain cell activity was shown to have numerous consequences. First, it causes poor performance in the classroom. Children of mothers who smoked while pregnant had difficulty following directions and remembering lessons. These children also measured low on math, speech, language, intelligence, and visual tests. These children were also shown to suffer from hyperactivity, attention deficits, lower IQ and learning disabilities. Also, these children demonstrated severe behavioral problems such as conflicts with others, disobedience, and anxiety attacks.
Genetics and Smoking During Pregnancy
According to Pete Quily, an adult ADD coach in Canada, women who smoked during pregnancy were more than twice as likely to have children with ADD. One interesting addition factor, however, was that the study could not assess whether the pregnant mothers had ADD themselves (which could cause them to smoke to reduce anxiety and hyperactivity) and were therefore genetically inclined to pass the ADD onto their offspring. In any case, the combined effect of genetics and smoking while pregnant can be detrimental to a child.
Further Risks and Consequences
Since ADD children have been shown to be at a higher risk of developing future alcohol and drug dependencies, smoking during pregnancy further perpetuates a lifetime cycle of chemical addiction. Also, ADD children are at risk for increased sexual promiscuity, criminal activity, eating disorders, depression, anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Women who are planning on becoming pregnant should stop smoking immediately. Women who find out that they are already pregnant should still quit. It is never too late to lessen the amount of damage to a fetus. In addition to ADD and behavioral and learning problems, smoking while pregnant can cause a host of other detrimental, and even fatal, issues.