Prenatal Smoking Raises Child's Diabetes Risk

March 18, 2015
Ryan Marotta, Assistant Editor

Women who smoke during pregnancy may be putting their children at risk for developing diabetes in adulthood.

Women who smoke during pregnancy may be putting their children at risk for developing diabetes in adulthood.

A new study presented at the annual Endocrine Society meeting on March 7, 2015, analyzed data from 1801 diabetic women aged 44 to 54 years whose mothers had reported smoking while pregnant. Even after adjusting their data to account for other diabetes risk factors, the research team determined that the women’s diabetes was more related to their mothers’ prenatal smoking than their fathers’.

“From a public health perspective, reduced fetal environmental tobacco smoke exposure appears to be an important modifiable risk factor for diabetes mellitus in offspring,” said lead author Michele La Merrill, MPH, PhD, assistant professor of Environmental Toxicology at the University of California, Davis, in a press release.

While the authors acknowledged that further studies are needed to confirm the link between prenatal smoking and diabetes, they nevertheless recommended that pregnant women cease smoking and avoid exposure to tobacco smoke to reduce their children’s diabetes risk.

“Medical doctors should consider advising pregnant smokers that emerging research suggests that tobacco smoking cessation in the home may benefit offspring by reducing their risk of developing diabetes mellitus independent of the effects of adult body mass index or birth weight on diabetes risk,” said Dr. La Merrill.

In an exclusive interview with Pharmacy Times, Norman H. Edelman, MD, senior consultant for scientific affairs at the American Lung Association, noted that prenatal smoking could spur other complications in the fetus.

“Children of women who smoking during pregnancy may be born prematurely, and can develop asthma and respiratory infections,” Dr. Edelman told Pharmacy Times. “There is also some evidence, though not particularly strong evidence, that prenatal smoking can lead to birth defects.”

Dr. Edelman noted that pharmacists can play an important role in preventing these potential complications by counseling pregnant smokers about the risks of prenatal smoking, educating them about available nicotine replacement products and self-help devices, and encouraging them to talk to their obstetrician to determine the safest treatment option.

“We have to emphasize that smoking is bad for the child,” said Dr. Edelman. “Anything you do to get pregnant women to stop smoking will help the unborn child.”