Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is every new parents worst nightmare. It’s a syndrome we don’t know enough about, which contributes to the dread.
We do know that cigarette smoke and SIDS are connected. Babies of mothers who smoke are at a much higher risk of dying from SIDS than other babies.
But until now it’s been unclear why.
Mothers who smoke during pregnancy tend to have other things going on that could create a less than healthy environment for the baby. Poverty is actually listed as a risk factor for SIDS. And accidental suffocation or “overlaying” is often lumped in with other causes of SIDS. Overlaying is more common when parents have substance abuse problems.
All of this is very gloomy indeed. But a new study has found that nicotine exposure in utero can actually affect the baby’s arousal and breathing system in a negative way.
The study, published this week in the journal Pediatric Allergy, Immunology, and Pulmonology, found that nicotine could be affecting the development of brain centers that regulate breathing. Babies exposed to nicotine in utero had more pauses in breathing (infant apnea).
The leading research in SIDS right now is trying to determine whether some infants are born with an inability to regulate their own breathing and arousal. This research seems to link up with that hypothesis.
Researchers analyzed data from human and animal studies and found that “nicotine exposure in the womb led to altered breathing patterns and ventilatory responses that compromised respiratory arousal and auto-resuscitation.”
Journal editor Dr Harold Farber, said, “perhaps when young women are freed from the chains of tobacco addiction we can then truly say that “you have come a long way… for your baby.”‘