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Passive smoke 'raises stillborn risk'

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Men who smoke and who are about to become fathers should give up to ensure their child is protected from birth defects or even stillbirth, according to academics.

Pregnant women exposed to cigarette smoke increased the risk of their baby being stillborn by 23%, scientists at the University of Nottingham claim.

They have also found that exposure to such smoke (usually at home or at work) raises the risk of birth defects by 13%.

Studies focused on passive-smoking pregnant women in Asia, Europe and in North and South America were analysed. The scientists said combined data from the 19 studies showed that being exposed to the smoke of at least 10 cigarettes a day was enough to increase the risks.

The risk of miscarriage however was neither decreased nor increased by passive smoking, the Nottingham scientists claimed, adding that the results also did not point to a link with any specific congenital birth defect.

Jo Leonardi-Bee, lead researcher, said the team still do not know when the effects of the second-hand smoke begin. He said: “What we still don’t know is whether it is the effect of side-stream smoke that the woman inhales that increases these particular risks or whether it is the direct effect of mainstream smoke that the father inhales during smoking that affects sperm development, or possibly both.”

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