During the early stages of pregnancy, separate areas of the
face develop individually, then fuse together. If certain
areas fail to join properly, the result is a facial deformity
known as a cleft. Infants born
with a cleft lip have an opening in the upper lip between
the mouth and the nose; those born with a cleft palate have
an abnormal opening at the back of the mouth,
or even complete separation of the roof of
Because smoking has been shown to have numerous negative
effects on pregnancy, including premature birth and low birth
weight, it has been proposed that smoking may contribute to
facial deformities such as cleft lip and/or cleft palate.
To investigate this hypothesis, detailed information on nearly
four million live births was obtained from the National Center
for Health Statistics 1996 Natality database. Data gathered
included maternal smoking status during pregnancy and infant
health status, such as the incidence of cleft lip/palate.
Results: Any amount of cigarette smoking during pregnancy
significantly increased the risk of bearing a child with a
cleft lip/palate, and increased smoking correlated with increased
risk. The authors point out that nearly 14% of mothers surveyed
in the study admitted to smoking during pregnancy, emphasizing
that this is a significant public health concern for both
mother and child.
If youre a smoker and cant seem to quit, talk to your doctor
about the most effective methods of breaking the habit once
and for all.
Chung KC, Kowalski CP, Kim HM, et al. Maternal cigarette
smoking during pregnancy and the risk of having a child with
a cleft lip/palate. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
2000: Vol. 105, pp485-91.
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