Quit smoking during pregnancy for a happier baby

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New research from the UK has revealed that women who smoke heavily during pregnancy have the most difficult babies.

The researchers say the revelation could be the deciding factor for women struggling to quit smoking during pregnancy.

They say mothers can expect to have a happier baby if they break the habit, as giving up cigarettes not only improves mother and child's physical health, it also makes it more likely the baby will have a sunnier nature, with regular sleeping and eating patterns.

It also appears that the babies of recent quitters were even more easy-going than those born to women who had never smoked or had stopped years earlier.

Dr. Kate Pickett, of York University, says a possible explanation for quitters having better behaved children than non-smokers is that women who are strongly motivated to give up smoking in pregnancy are very positive about the decision and the outcomes for the baby.

Dr. Pickett's research is the first evidence of the impact on babies' behaviour of stopping smoking in early pregnancy, even though the risks to physical health caused by mothers' smoking have been well-documented.

However data on their babies' mental well-being has been scant.

Dr. Pickett's study involved 18,000 British children born between 2000 and 2002 who were taking part in the Millennium Cohort Study.

It found at the age of nine months that women who smoked heavily in pregnancy (more than ten cigarettes a day) had the most difficult babies with the worst moods while mothers who had given up smoking had the best behaved babies.

These babies had the lowest chances of unpredictable behaviour, were receptive to new things and had regular eating and sleeping patterns.

Dr. Pickett says it is already known that children in later life suffer adverse effects from passive smoking in the womb, so it's not surprising to find subtle signs of behaviour differences in the first few months of life.

Dr. Pickett says the mothers themselves picked up these differences, with the babies of quitters having the most positive temperaments and this should be an added incentive to give up smoking in pregnancy.

Around 4,000 women involved in the study continued to smoke while expecting.

Chemicals from cigarettes are known to harm the development of the brains of babies in the womb and are also linked to low birth weight, birth defects and increased risk of cot death.

The study is published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

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