Smoking During Pregnancy May Harm Baby Girls’ Fertility Later in Life
It’s not news that smoking during pregnancy can harm both mom and her developing baby, but a recent study suggests that it can have harmful life-long effects for baby girls in particular, possibly damaging their future ability to have children of their own.
The research, presented this week in Austria at the 58th Annual European Society for Paediatric Endocrinology Meeting, says babies born to women who smoke during pregnancy show signs of increased testosterone exposure, which can affect their long-term hormonal and reproductive health. The study says that cigarettes are an endocrine disruptor, which means that they interfere with hormone systems.
Researchers looked at 56 newborn girls and 54 newborn boys, all born to mothers who smoked during their pregnancies. They noticed effects in the girls that were not found in the boys. They measured AGD (anogenital distance) from the midpoint of the anus to the genitalia, which is regulated by testosterone during fetal development, and found it to be significantly increased in the girls.
"This significant increase in AGD in girls exposed to maternal smoking may be an indicator of excessive testosterone exposure that poses a risk for short and long-term health problems, including metabolism and fertility,” lead study author Deniz Ozalp Kizilay, MD, said in the news release.
However, he cautioned that “the mechanisms behind the potential reproductive problems caused by exposure to cigarette smoke in the womb are not fully understood. Our results do suggest that girls have higher testosterone exposure but not how this relates to reproductive function. More extensive and carefully-designed studies are required to explain this relationship."
Kizilay and his team hope to gain more clarity by monitoring the long-term effects of exposure in the same group of baby girls, but says the research they’ve already done is vital. “To our knowledge this is the first time that the unfavorable effects of prenatal smoke exposure on AGD, as a marker of testosterone exposure, has been demonstrated in female newborns. These findings are a valuable contribution to our better understanding of the intergenerational effects of maternal smoking.”
This is just one of the dangers that comes with smoking during pregnancy. You can read up on the other risks here. And it’s not just women who are affected—read how men who smoke may be reducing their sperm count.
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