A multi-study review found nicotine might be behind the increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in babies whose mothers smoke, UPI reported Nov. 11.
Investigators at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center led by Hemant Sawnani, MD, sifted through volumes of research examining the relationship between maternal smoking, infant sleep apnea, and SIDS. Several of the studies found nicotine negatively affected development of the part of the brain responsible for respiratory control.
In fact, the risk of SIDS increased two-fold for infants whose mothers smoked moderately while pregnant and five-fold for infants whose mothers smoked heavily.
Interestingly, paternal smoking around pregnant mothers also increased the risk of sleep apnea in infants — an association that did not persist after the babies were born.
“This finding suggests the effect of maternal smoking on infant apnea is more likely to be from prenatal than postnatal exposure,” said the authors.
“In utero cigarette smoke exposure has been identified as one of the major risk factors for SIDS in many epidemiological studies,” they continued.
“The importance of education of women of child-bearing age … should be considered paramount in reducing the most modifiable risk factor for SIDS.”
The study was published in the Nov. 1 issue of Pediatric Allergy, Immunology and Pulmonology.