Dreading the 'Terrible Twos'? Don't Smoke, Mothers Warned
WebMD News Archive
Lauren Wakschlag PhD, a researcher at the University of Chicago, notes that
it's not clear that smoking during pregnancy actually causes behavior problems
in the offspring. She points out that many children born to women who smoked
while pregnant don't develop behavior problems.
"There's a pretty robust set of work ... linking maternal smoking during
pregnancy with severe antisocial behavior, such as conduct disorder or
criminality. It's pretty clear the two are associated, but we don't know yet if
it's causal and we don't know why they're associated," Wakschlag tells
Many people know of the effects of maternal smoking on newborns, such as low
birth weight or premature births. They may be less aware of the long-term
effects of maternal smoking, says Wakschlag, director of the Preschool Behavior
Problems Clinic at the University of Chicago.
Wakschlag urges women who smoke to cut down on cigarettes, even if they
can't quit. She urges women to keep their doctors informed about their smoking
throughout pregnancy, and she urges physicians to guide their patients in
reducing or quitting smoking.
"I'm not pointing a finger to blame [smoking] mothers," she tells
WebMD. "We know these women have an addiction, and there are treatments
- Women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have toddlers who
display negative behaviors, such as impulsiveness, risky behavior, and
rebelliousness. These behaviors often persist into adulthood.
- If a woman who smokes becomes pregnant, she should try to quit or at least
cut down on smoking to prevent these behavior problems as well as premature
birth and low birth weight.
- Researchers are still unsure why smoking during pregnancy is associated
with negative behaviors.