A mother who smokes during pregnancy exposes her baby to unhealthy chemicals such as nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide, which lessens the amount of oxygen available to the unborn baby, and can cause pregnancy complications including birth defects, premature delivery and still birth. Is there any way to reduce the impact of a pregnant smoking mom on the health of her developing infant?
In a new study entitled, Daily Vitamin C Improves Pulmonary Function In Newborns Of Pregnant Smoking Women: A Randomized Trial, researchers examined whether a daily dose of vitamin C could help improve the lung function of babies who were born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy.
Vitamin C and Lung Function of Babies
Dr. Cindy McEvoy, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Oregon Health & Science University Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, and her colleagues, randomly assigned pregnant women who smoked into two groups: pregnant women in the first group took a daily 500mg of vitamin C, while the second group of women took a placebo. Dr. McEvoy found that babies born the mothers who took the daily dose of vitamin C had better lung function 48 hours after birth than the babies born to mothers who took the placebo. This study shows that vitamin C may help protect the unborn baby from at least some of the harmful effects of smoking.
How Vitamin C Protects Infant Lung Health
How can vitamin C help protect babies born to mothers who smoke? Decoded Science had the opportunity to interview Dr. McEvoy to discuss this study, and asked that very question. Dr. McEvoy replied: “It appears that the vitamin C helped prevent the structural changes that can occur in the baby’s lungs during development due to exposure to nicotine. If a baby is born with improved lung function tests they are less likely to develop respiratory problems such as wheezing and asthma.”
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Does this mean that pregnant women, especially those exposed to nicotine, should start taking a vitamin C supplement? Talk to your doctor first, since these are the results of a single study. According Dr. McEvoy, “We are planning a further study using a more sensitive pulmonary function test to reconfirm the initial results of this study. It is important to assure safety of any supplement during pregnancy.”
Recommendations for Pregnant Women Smokers
So, what should you do, if you’re pregnant and can’t quit smoking? Dr. McEvoy’s recommendation for pregnant women is as follows: “The most important thing is for pregnant women to quit smoking but if they are unable, we think extra vitamin C may help protect the development of their baby’s lungs from nicotine and therefore decrease subsequent respiratory problems they may have.”
Although it is best to stop smoking for the health of the mother and the baby; this study shows that vitamin C maybe able to help combat some of the toxic effects smoking has on unborn babies. It is important to talk with your doctor about ways to stop smoking when you are pregnant, and always discuss starting or increasing any supplement with your physician before making any changes.
March of Dimes. Alcohol and Drugs. Accessed March 19, 2013.
McEvoy, C., et al. Daily Vitamin C Improves Pulmonary Function In Newborns Of Pregnant Smoking Women: A Randomized Trial. (2012). American Thoracic Society 2012 International Conference.*Originally Published on Decoded Scienc© Copyright 2013 Janelle Vaesa, MPH: Health, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Pregnancy