Prenatal exposure to maternal smoking

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Author: 
Adoptive Families Association of BC
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Causes
A mother smoking tobacco while pregnant.  This can often coincide with alcohol and drug use as well, which heightens the harmful effects.

Characteristics
Similar to prenatal drug exposure, tobacco use usually coincides with other substance abuse, so it is difficult to isolate the effects of smoking alone.  However, the following are symptoms associated with maternal smoking while pregnant:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • ADHD
  • Aggression
  • Auditory, visual, and language disabilities
  • Mental retardation
  • Low birth weight and a small head

Treatment
Most of the symptoms could have been caused by a variety of effects, so they are usually treated individually. Treatment is completely dependant upon which symptoms are being exhibited and the history of the child in question. Close observation as the child develops is key to giving him or her the best chance possible.

Complications
Especially with regards to international adoption, it is very rare to receive complete and accurate information on the birth mother’s habits or activities.  Because of this it is necessary for prospective parents to be prepared for anything.

Also, it is often difficult to distinguish between prenatal and postnatal effects of smoking. Tobacco affects a child’s brain chemistry, and that effect continues as long as the child is maturing within the same environment.


This resource is by no means intended as a substitute for a doctor's advice or diagnosis. Any concerns you may have with regard to your child's health and development should be discussed with a professional in an appropriate field.