Children of mothers who smoke during pregnancy have a greater risk of being overweight than children whose mothers do not smoke during pregnancy.
This is the conclusion of Erasmus MC researchers based on the large-scale Generation R study. Their findings have been published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The researchers studied more than 5,000 children in Rotterdam to determine the effect of smoking by mothers and fathers during pregnancy on the growth of the child after birth. The children of mothers who continued to smoke during pregnancy had a 50% greater chance of being overweight later in life. Children whose mothers stopped smoking early on in their pregnancy or children whose fathers smoked, did not have an increased risk of becoming overweight. How maternal smoking during pregnancy results in becoming overweight is as yet unknown. It does appear that these children are smaller up to the age of 4 years although they are not lighter, gaining enough weight. The scientists will carry out further research on the development of the muscles, bones and fat storage using child-friendly body scans. This should help understand the relationship between smoking during pregnancy and becoming overweight later in life.
The Generation R study had previously already shown that smoking during pregnancy results in child growth problems in the womb. It now appears that smoking during pregnancy not only has short-term harmful effects for children but also later in life. The research underlines the importance of women not smoking or stopping immediately if they wish to become pregnant.
The research is based on Erasmus MC’s large-scale population study, Generation R. This population study monitors the growth, development and health of 10,000 children in Rotterdam from fetal life through young adulthood.