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News Americas

A new report has shown that maternal smoking in early pregnancy can cause orofacial clefts in infants. (Photo: BlueSkyImage/Shutterstock)
0 Comments Jan 21, 2014 | News Americas

Smoking during pregnancy can lead to increased risk of orofacial clefts

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WASHINGTON, USA: The Office of the Surgeon General, a U.S. governmental office concerned with public health, has published its 2014 report on the implications of tobacco use for oral health. Among other findings, the report showed additional evidence that maternal smoking in early pregnancy is associated with the development of cleft lip and palate in infants.

The report, which was published last week, showed that tobacco smoke includes about 7,000 compounds that could interfere with normal organ development in offspring in several ways and can cause major defects, including failure of the upper lip or the palate to form correctly during fetal development.

According to the March of Dimes Foundation, a U.S. nonprofit organization aimed at the improved health of mothers and infants, more than 7,000 babies are born in the country each year with an oral cleft birth defect. Even though smoking may increase the risk of such defects by 30 to 50 percent, about 23 percent of women smoke during pregnancy. One recent study mentioned in the Surgeon General report showed a more than twofold increased risk of orofacial clefts with maternal smoking exposure.

The report highlights that an embryo is most easily disturbed during the organogenesis period from day 15 to day 60 after conception. With a cleft lip, for instance, the tissue that makes up the lip does not form completely between the fourth and seventh week of pregnancy. With cleft palate, the tissue that makes up the roof of the mouth does not form correctly between the sixth and ninth week of pregnancy.

In addition to malformations, such as clubfoot, gastroschisis and congenital heart defects, maternal smoking is associated with a 27 percent increase in the risk of preterm delivery. The Surgeon General estimates that over 400,000 live-born infants in the U.S. are exposed in utero to tobacco from maternal smoking annually.

The full report, titled "The Health Consequences of Smoking — 50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General," is available for download on the Surgeon General's website.

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