Pregnancy, smoking and birth outcomes

Ali Delpisheh, Loretta Brabin, Bernard J. Brabin

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This review summarizes the epidemiology and consequences of maternal smoking in pregnancy, with emphasis on the adverse effects on birth outcomes. In developed countries, approximately 15%, and in developing countries, approximately 8% of women smoke cigarettes, and adolescents and women from lower socioeconomic groups are more likely than other women to smoke while pregnant. Maternal smoking during pregnancy is the largest modifiable risk factor for intrauterine growth restriction. A meta-analysis of recent studies showed that the pooled estimate for reduction of mean birthweight was 174 g (95% confidence limits 132-220 g). Other studies confirm a weaker association between maternal smoking and preterm birth. The population attributable risk of low birthweight due to maternal smoking in the UK is estimated to be 29-39%. Tobacco smoke toxins damage the placenta and may lead to placental abruption, abortion or placenta praevia. Infants of mothers who smoke in pregnancy are at an increased risk of respiratory complications including asthma, obesity and, possibly, behavioral disorders. These effects may be dose-related, as there is good evidence that mean birthweight decrements are greater with increased numbers of cigarettes smoked during pregnancy. Cotinine is a useful indicator of tobacco smoke exposure in pregnant women and higher levels in body fluids have been related to lower birthweights. Maternal genetic polymorphisms of the cytochrome P (CYP)450 and glutathione-S-transferase (GST) subfamilies of metabolic genes influence the magnitude of the effect of nicotine exposure on birth outcomes through their influence on nicotine metabolism. Greatly increased risk of cigarette smoke-induced diseases, including low birthweight, has been found in individuals with susceptible genotypes. Interventions to control maternal smoking are also considered. © 2006 Future Medicine Ltd.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)389-403
    Number of pages14
    JournalWomen's Health
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - May 2006


    • Birthweight
    • Cotinine
    • Environmental tobacco smoke
    • Fetal growth
    • Pregnancy
    • Preterm birth
    • Smoking


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