Pregnant women are advised not to smoke but only about 50% of smokers who become pregnant actually give up the habit during pregnancy. Smoking during pregnancy puts your baby at risk for lower birth weight, decreased lung function and is a risk factor for SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). It is best to stop smoking during pregnancy but for those 50% who choose not to or are unable to stop smoking, new research shows that a daily dose of vitamin C by smoking mothers may help newborn lung function.
According to Cynthia T McEvoy MD, MCR, FAAP, associate professor of pediatrics at Oregon Health & Science University “Vitamin C is a simple, safe and inexpensive treatment that may decrease the impact of smoking during pregnancy on childhood and respiratory health.” The study included 159 women who were less than 22 weeks pregnant and were unable to quit smoking. The participants were either given one 500 milligram capsule of vitamin C or a placebo to take daily with a prenatal vitamin. Neither participants nor study investigators knew which capsule was being taken. Also, a group of nonsmoking pregnant women were studied in conjunction with this study. The newborn’s pulmonary function was tested at about 48 hours of life and investigators measured how the newborn breathed in and out, how easily the lungs moved and how big the infant’s lungs were. The results showed that babies born to the smoking mothers who took vitamin C had significantly improved lung function at birth as compared to the babies whose mothers took the placebo. As a continued part of the research, the parents were contacted through the infant’s first year of life to document episodes of wheezing or other respiratory symptoms. The researchers found that the infants whose mothers had taken the vitamin C during pregnancy had significantly less wheezing through year 1 than the infants whose mothers received the placebo.
As this research is hopeful for those mothers that continue to smoke during pregnancy, the top priority should still be to stop smoking if possible. Always ask your physician if you have questions about your health and what you can do to stay healthy for your baby.