London: Mothers-to-be, take note! Smoking during pregnancy can put your child at risk attaining puberty early, a study has found.
The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, looked at data from a total of 15,819 pregnant women and their children.
During pregnancy, the women were asked about their smoking habits. Then, the children were followed and filled in 83,810 questionnaires about their pubertal development from the age of eleven and every six months thereafter.
"We found that children of mothers who had smoked more than ten cigarettes a day during pregnancy, on average entered puberty three to six months earlier than the children of non-smokers," said Nis Brix, from Aarhus University in Denmark.
"Early puberty can be associated with an increased risk of a number of diseases as an adult, such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and certain types of cancer," said Brix.
Together with his colleagues, he is working to identify the causes of puberty to be able to prevent it occurring.
"It is known that smoking is harmful to the unborn foetus. Smoking is, among other things, associated with an increased risk of low birth weight, premature birth and increased mortality," said Brix.
"There are thus a wide range of other good reasons to give up smoking before pregnancy. We hope that our results can be used as another motivating factor to stop smoking among women who are planning on becoming pregnant," he said.