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Pregnant Smokers Raise Their Child's Risk of Stroke, Heart Attack

holesterol levels, the CIMT remained 9.4 micrometers thicker in children of mothers who smoked. Adjustment for current smoking by both mothers and fathers or the number of pack years (one "pack year" is 20 cigarettes smoked/day for one year) smoked by study participants also did not change this association.

"While it is difficult to separate the problem of current smoking and smoking during pregnancy, this study indicates that smoking in pregnancy has an independent effect," Uiterwaal said.

If both parents smoked during pregnancy, the children as young adults had thicker CIMT than other participants with either one smoking parent or parents who didn’t smoke. Offspring of mothers who smoked the highest number of cigarettes during pregnancy had thicker CIMT than those born to mothers smoking less than the average or those who did not smoke.

"Our findings suggest that both smoking by mothers themselves in pregnancy and exposure to passive smoking are important," he said. "More exposure leads to more vascular damage in the offspring."

The researchers found that pregnancy was a critical period for damage from smoke exposure. They compared the children of mothers who didn’t smoke during pregnancy and were currently not smoking to the children of mothers who didn’t smoke in pregnancy but smoked now. They found no difference in CIMT. However, children from mothers who smoked in pregnancy, but who didn’t currently smoke had significantly thicker CIMT compared to offspring of abstaining mothers. "There is the possibility that the compounds in tobacco smoke go through the placenta and directly damage the cardiovascular system of the fetus," Uiterwaal said. "The damage appears to be permanent and stays with the children."

When study participants were born, about 30 percent of the mothers smoked during pregnancy. But the current rate has dropped to between 5 percent and 7 percent due to health warnings, Uiterwaal s
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