Incredible images of foetus show how babies exposed to cigarettes may have delayed development.

New ultrasound pictures show how babies of mothers who smoke during pregnancy touch their mouths and faces much more than babies of non-smoking mothers.

Foetuses normally touch their mouths and faces much less the older and more developed they are.

Experts said the scans show how smoking during pregnancy can mean the development of the baby’s central nervous system is delayed.

Doctors have long urged pregnant women to give up cigarettes because they heighten the risk of premature birth, respiratory problems and even cot death.

Now researchers believe they can show the effects of smoking on babies in the womb.

Dr Nadja Reissland, of Durham University, used 4-D ultrasound scan images to record thousands of tiny movements in the womb.

The study published in 2015, monitored 20 mothers attending the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, four of whom smoked an average of 14 cigarettes a day.

After studying their scans at 24, 28, 32 and 36 weeks, she detected that foetuses whose mothers smoked continued to show significantly higher rates of mouth movement and self-touching than those carried by non-smokers.

Foetuses usually move their mouths and touch themselves less as they gain more control the closer they get to birth, she explained.

All the babies in her study were born healthy, and were of normal size and weight.

“Our findings concur with others that stress and depression have a significant impact on fetal movements, and need to be controlled for, but additionally these results point to the fact that nicotine exposure has an effect on fetal development over and above the effects of stress and depression,” Resissland said.

Last year a study discovered an association between a mother’s smoking and an increased risk of her child developing schizophrenia. Read that article here.

Smoking during pregnancy can:

Increase the risk of preterm delivery
Cause low birth weight
Cause tissue damage in the lungs and brain
Prevent the baby from getting enough oxygen

Pregnancy and quitting smoking
Ideally, a pregnant woman should stop smoking. In reality, up to half of females quit when pregnancy is planned or confirmed. If you need help to quit, see your health professional for information and advice or call Quitline.

If you are finding it tough to stop smoking, don’t despair. There is evidence to suggest that stopping smoking by the fourth month of pregnancy can reduce some of the risks, such as low birth weight and premature birth.

Where to get help
•Your doctor
•Quitline Tel. 13 7848 (13 QUIT)

Share your comments below.

Image via Youtube

  • just give it up for good! it is just a bad and expensive habit and habits can be broken. It is rather selfish to smoke while pregnant and quitting for bub’s sake, is one of the first parenting choices that you can make. Your child’s body is at stake!


  • Very interesting and also very disturbing study.


  • Smoking is a no no when pregnant.


  • Such confronting images. I was a smoker – trying to quit whilst on IVF, but so stressed by the process I was an intermittent smoker eg. when it didn’t work, I would smoke (not every day, some now and then). But the day I found out I was pregnant I felt sick and that was it. I’ve never smoked again.


  • If you can’t have enough self control and will power to quit smoking to have a baby, then you shouldn’t have a baby. Being a mother requires self sacrifice and if you aren’t willing even before you have a child, what are you going to be like when you actually have one?


  • The smoking habit can be hard to break. Some women succeed to stop during pregnancy, some reduce, others don’t. I don’t think it’s all unwillingness and not caring.


  • I have never smoked but have heard that it is actually not good to give up smoking whilst pregnant as it can cause a lot of stress on the pregnancy


  • Smoking is such a hard habit to break.


  • Mothers to be who smoke that I’ve talked to say it’s hard to quit, it’s dangerous for baby to quit whilst pregnant and they know other smoking women who have had healthy babies. I would quit no matter how high or low the risks are. I have read that the effects can become noticeable months even years after birth


  • I was a heavy smoker, but each time I found out I was pregnant I stopped until I finished breast feeding them.


  • From what I have read and heard smoking is a very hard thing to give up …why oh why start in the first place, is it peer pressure, wanting to be cool ? either way many end up being the fool.
    Helping and supporting these moms to give up is vital.


  • I agree that pregnant women who smoke need lots of encouragement & support and no nagging & judgement indeed.


  • Expectant Mum need a plenty of encouragment to give up smoking — not nagging.
    I saw the ultrasound photo taken when the Mum was 14 weeks pregnant. The baby’s looked grumpy. The baby was full term but small……not small any more.


  • Pregnant women who smoke need the support of others as it is very hard.


  • You just do not smoke if you are pregnant!


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