Girl children born to mothers who smoke during pregnancy can exhibit signs of increased testosterone exposure, affecting their hormone and reproductive function in future.
Presented at the 58th Annual European Society for Paediatric Endocrinology Meeting, the study suggested that baby girls, who are exposed to higher levels of testosterone in the womb are at a greater risk of abnormal development and long-term negative effects on fertility and metabolism.
For the study, Dr Deniz Ozalp Kizilay and colleagues from Cigli State Training Hospital in Turkey calculated the AD Anogenital distance between the midpoint of the anus to the genitalia in newborn girls and boys of those mothers who smoked during pregnancy. AGD was found to be significantly longer in these baby girls.
“This significant increase in AGD in girls exposed to maternal smoking may be an indicator of excessive testosterone exposure that poses a risk for short and long-term health problems, including metabolism and fertility. Further investigation is needed to explain the relationship between maternal smoking, increased AGD and future health issues in girls,” Dr Kizilay was quoted as saying.
The lead author further added, “The mechanisms behind the potential reproductive problems caused by exposure to cigarette smoke in the womb are not fully understood. Our results do suggest that girls have higher testosterone exposure but not how this relates to reproductive function. More extensive and carefully designed studies are required to explain this relationship.”
The effects of smoking during pregnancy have been studied by experts in the past too, including complications like sudden bleeding. Another recent study suggested that smoking during pregnancy can double the risk of sudden infant death. Even exposure to passive smoking during pregnancy can be harmful, increasing the risk of high blood pressure, along with health problems in infants like asthma attacks, respiratory infections and ear infections.