Smoking during pregnancy and its effect on hormones and DNA

Two common factors that lead to the deterioration of an individual’s overall health, happen to be smoking and tobacco consumption. Research has indicated that the number of individuals getting addicted to smoking and tobacco consumption has increased alarmingly over the past few years. These habits could with time, lead to life threatening diseases like esophageal and lung cancer. In certain cases, smoking can also lead to weight gain by encouraging excess calorie intake.

pregnant lady sitting on sofa

A lot of research has been carried out on the harmful effects of smoking and tobacco consumption by women during pregnancy. It has been noted that these habits, if not curbed in time, could lead to several psychological problems in women, even increasing their vulnerability to suicidal thoughts.

Study linking smoking to adverse side effects during pregnancy

Smoking during pregnancy (1)

The Psychoneuroendocrinology journal recently published the results of a study that dealt with how regular smoking can affect pregnant women adversely. The results of the study indicate that smoking during pregnancy can be detrimental for the health of both the mother and baby inside her womb. The study also relates the direct contribution of smoking towards various health and behavioral issues in newborn babies. Accordingly, some of the noted risks infants face include asthma, nicotine addiction and behavioral issues, etc.

Inability to handle stressful situations

shy child

The study was conducted by a skilled team of researchers at the Miriam Hospital in Rhode Island. The researchers worked at analyzing the various effects smoking would have on the health of the mother and the newborn baby. They pointed out that mothers who smoked during pregnancy put their newborn babies at higher risks of instability in their later years. Babies born to these mothers find it difficult to handle stressful situations as they age mainly because the gene that regulates the safe proper passage of stress hormones from the mother to the fetus is altered. As such, the newborns may not get the necessary amount of hormonal response to stressors, leading to a partially developed stress system that cannot cope with stressful situations efficiently.

Premature babies/ smaller birth sizes

lady giving birth

The research team also indicated that babies born to mothers who smoke regularly are more at risk of being delivered prematurely. They also tend to be much smaller than average babies and stand greater chances of contracting several post birth medical complications too.

The study conducted by the Miriam Hospital included 100 mothers and their newborn babies. The mothers were picked from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds, covering different income levels.

The study measured the nicotine levels of the mothers who were interviewed regularly based on individual nicotine levels in order to monitor their pregnancy on a daily basis. Following the delivery, their placentas were retrieved and examined carefully to check for any anomalies in the DNA. The research team analyzed the individual DNA samples to check for possible differences in the glucocorticoid receptors.

The results of the study established the fact that pregnant women who smoked more had babies who had reduced levels (as opposed to the standard level) of cortisol, the stress hormone that is responsible for proper physical and psychological coordination. The reduced cortisol levels appeared to be consistent across seven different behavioral exams conducted during the first month after delivery.

The research team at Miriam Hospital asserts that the results of the study indicating the effects of smoking on the infant’s stress response can be explained by subtle variations in the DNA. These variations can signify a change in the level of stress hormones in the body which trigger stress response accordingly. As such, the study concludes that babies born to mothers who smoke regularly are at greater risk of developing nicotine addiction as well as several behavioral problems as they grow.


Studies have indicated that smoking during pregnancy can affect newborn babies. Pregnant women who smoke are at greater risk of transmitting conditions like asthma, behavioral problems and nicotine addiction to their infants. The study also pointed out that babies born to mothers who smoke have lower levels of stress hormones and so, cannot handle stressful situations appropriately as they age.

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