4D ultrasounds show unborn babies grimace when their mothers smoke while pregnant, according to a new scientific study. Smoking while pregnant can also cause harm to the central nervous system of the unborn baby, the researchers maintain. Both 3D and 4D ultrasounds have become very popular in recent years, with some mothers opting to have the images taken once each month during pregnancy.
Fetuses, or unborn babies, “touch their faces” and “moved their mouths” frequently while inside the womb. But, when mothers smoke while pregnant, this typical behavior of the unborn babies reportedly diminishes. Fetuses of smoking mothers exhibited “slower” behaviors and movements. The scientists involved in the study feel that the lack of activity is due to the stunted growth of the unborn babies’ central nervous system.
The smoking while pregnant study was conducted on 24 participants that were recruited by the antenatal unit at the James Cook University Hospital. The four smoking mothers reportedly smoked 14 cigarettes per day on average. The university researchers conducted 4D ultrasounds when the mothers were 24, 28, 32, and 36 weeks pregnant.
Although the smoking while pregnant study “controlled for” depression and stress, the scientists believe that a larger group of participants is necessary to confirm their central nervous system damage results.
An excerpt from the 4D ultrasound smoking while pregnant study:
“Over and above the effect of stress, smoking status had a significant effect on frequency of fetal mouth movements and a marginally significant effect on facial self-touch. Larger studies are required to confirm reported associations and further understand the relationship between maternal smoking, stress, depression and fetal development.”
Previous and unrelated studies focused on smoking while pregnant have reportedly shown that fetuses exposed to nicotine could be placed at increased risk of premature labor, miscarriage, and still birth. Babies born to smoking mothers are also possibly more susceptible to infection, heart disease, low birth weight, and breathing difficulties.
The scientists involved in the 4D ultrasound study are hopeful that their findings will encourage mothers not to smoke while pregnant. Lancaster University professor and study co-author Brian Francis said, “Technology means we can now see what was previously hidden, revealing how smoking affects the development of the fetus in ways we did not realize. This is yet further evidence of the negative effects of smoking in pregnancy.”
What do you think about the 4D ultrasounds findings in the smoking while pregnant study?
[Images via: Shutterstock.com]