The negative consequences of smoking during pregnancy have been well documented, but according to new research it’s not just your child that could be affected, but your future grandchildren too.
The research, published in the American Journal of Human Biology, reveal that grandchildren’s development is affected even when their own mother is a non-smoker, revealing quite what a potent impact smoking has on genetics.
A total of 4,541 expecting mothers were involved in the study. They were sent six questionnaires during pregnancy, in which they were asked to reveal their current smoking habits and those of their parent an partners.
Their children’s development were studied from the age of seven and every year after until the age of 17 for body mass index, lean mass, fat mass and waist circumference to determine whether prenatal smoke exposure of either parent is associated with their growth and whether there was a difference between maternal and paternal grandmothers' smoking habits.
READ MORE: EATING JUNK FOOD BEFORE GETTING PREGNANT ‘RAISES RISK OF PREMATURE BIRTH’
The study found that the consequences of smoking can have ‘sex-specific transgenerational effects.’
With non-smoking mothers, if a paternal grandmother smoked during pregnancy, her granddaughters tended to have a slightly increased fat mass and increases in bone mass. Both her granddaughters and grandsons tended to have greater bone mass and lean (muscle) mass.
If a maternal grandmother smoked during pregnancy, but the mother did not, the boys became heavier than expected with increasing age—an association that was particularly due to lean rather than fat mass, reflected in increased strength and fitness.
When both the maternal grandmother and the mother had smoked, girls had reduced height, weight, and fat/lean/bone mass when compared with girls born to smoking mothers whose own mothers had not smoked.
READ MORE: HOW TO QUIT SMOKING NOW YOU'RE TRYING TO CONCEIVE OR PREGNANT
Commenting on the study, RCOG spokesperson, Dr Patrick O’Brien, said: ‘Existing research tells us that smoking during pregnancy can have adverse effects on fetal development and can result in having a low-birth weight baby, preterm birth or stillbirth.
‘This new research is particularly interesting as it focuses on the transgenerational effects of prenatal smoking and adds to the existing evidence base on the negative impacts of smoking to the unborn child.
Dr O'Brien said that all mums-to-be who smoke 'should be offered advice and support to help them give up or abstain.’