A PhD student at The University of Western Australia, working with the Telethon Institute of Child Health, has revealed there are long-term benefits for a child if their mother quits smoking even after the pregnancy is established.
The findings will be published in the next edition of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health and are now available online at http://jech.bmj.com/onlinefirst.dtl
Report co-author Monique Robinson said the study revealed that even if a woman was still smoking in the first few months of pregnancy, it was not too late to quit to improve the outcomes for her child.
"Our analysis revealed that there was an association between mothers who quit by four months gestation and a reduced risk of behavioural problems in the child," Ms Robinson said.
"The decision and ability to quit are really important indicators. Quitting smoking is perceived to be difficult, but if a mother decides to and is able to quit for the sake of her unborn child's health, this may reflect positive maternal qualities that may have ongoing benefits for the child themselves."
The analysis was drawn from data collected from more than 2,800 participants in the Raine Study. Behaviour was assessed at two, five, eight, 10 and 14 years of age.
Ms Robinson said the study also showed that smoking throughout pregnancy resulted in a much higher risk for behavioural problems in children than those children whose mothers did not smoke, or quit smoking before four months gestation.
"While significant inroads have been made in reducing smoking in the population, one in six women still smoke in pregnancy," Ms Robinson said.
"We know that pregnancy can be a window of opportunity where women are more likely to be focused on their own health and that of their child, so it's important that we support pregnant women in their efforts to stop smoking."
About the Raine Study
The Raine Study is jointly conducted by the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research and The School of Women's and Infant's Health at the University of Western Australia. The study started in 1989, when 2,900 pregnant women were recruited into a research study at King Edward Memorial Hospital to examine ultrasound imaging. The mothers were assessed at 18 weeks of pregnancy, then again at 24, 28, 34 and 38 weeks of pregnancy. During this time information was collected on the mother and the father, for example diet, exercise, work, health, etc.
The research team at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research has assessed the children at one, two, three, five, eight, 10, 14 and 17 years of age. At each follow-up, information is collected from the parents and the child. Find out more at http://www.rainestudy.org.au/