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Smoking During Pregnancy May Harm Baby Girls’ Fertility Later In Life

Everyone knows that smoking is a pregnancy no-no, but new research suggests that its harmful effects may go much further than we once thought. Smoking while expecting a baby girl may actually cause fertility problems for her down the road.

Not too long ago, almost everyone smoked. Ashtrays were in every bank, coffee shop, and vehicle. Smoking is on the decline after studies have confirmed how dangerous it is.

Today, most people understand that we should not smoke while pregnant. It leads to a whole host of problems, including low birth weight and it doubles the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Nevertheless, some mothers cannot quit. Even those who do not smoke are often exposed to second-hand smoke, which has similar effects.

READ MORE: Earlier Puberty Linked To Mother's Smoking During Pregnancy

A study published by the European Society for Pediatric Endocrinology found compelling evidence smoking during pregnancy causes elevated testosterone levels in baby girls. The results suggest that female children of mothers who smoked while pregnant may face fertility issues later in life.

A man quarrels with a pregnant girl who smokes cigarettes. They are sitting on the couch at home.
Credit: iStock

So how do cigarettes do this kind of damage? The fact is, tobacco smoke is not just a toxin--it is an endocrine disruptor. That means that it messes with hormone levels. Hormones are responsible for regulating human growth and development.

A mother who smokes during pregnancy floods her developing child with excess testosterone. Elevated testosterone in females causes a variety of problems, markedly issues with metabolism and fertility.

In order to confirm whether cigarette exposure in the womb had these effects, researchers measured the anal-genital distance (AGD). A longer than the standard length between the anus and the genitals is an indication of excess testosterone. Baby girls of moms who smoked during pregnancy had longer than normal AGD.

The researchers will monitor the girls over time to assess their future health and fertility.

While most people know about the dangers of smoking while pregnant, it still happens. Support and resources to help expecting mothers quit should be an integral part of prenatal care.

READ NEXT: Smoking During Pregnancy Doubles Risk Of Sudden Death For Baby

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