Babies exposed to smoke while in the womb may have a higher risk of cot death because they suffer circulation problems, according to research.
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Newborn babies who had been exposed to smoke had abnormal heart rates and spikes in their blood pressure, which made their hearts work harder even when sleeping, a study showed.
Scientists at the Karolinkska Institute in Sweden, led by Dr Gary Cohen, suggested this could be related to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
The team studied 36 babies, of which 17 had been exposed to smoke during gestation. In the first week of life, smoke-exposed babies showed excessive rises in blood pressure when they were lifted up from a horizontal position, and developed abnormally low blood pressure for the same movement by the age of one.
Janet Fyle, Professional Policy Advisor at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said: “These findings support what we know; that smoking during pregnancy can harm the developing foetus.
“The RCM would urge pregnant women who smoke to seek advice and support from their midwife about stopping smoking, for the benefit of their own long-term health.
“This would also benefit the health of their child.”
The findings were reported in the journal Hypertension.