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Virginia Commonwealth University researchers found that even minimal secondhand smoke exposure when pregnant could negatively impact the unborn child. The researchers said that smoke had the ability to cause epigenetic changes in the unborn child. This means that the baby’s regulation of gene expression could fluctuate. What’s even worse, nearly ¼ of all pregnant women claimed to have had secondhand smoke exposure at one point or another during their pregnancy.

Study authors have found that these DNA changes might put your kid at a higher risk of developing cancer or developmental disorders. Bernard Fuemmeler, the lead author, said that there’s no level of exposure that’s safe. He further stated that even the lowest levels of secondhand smoke exposure are dangerous to the unborn child and can affect the baby’s epigenetic composition. However, that does not mean that all women who’ve been exposed to secondhand smoke will have a kid who’ll suffer some disease outcome in the future. They’ll just be at a higher risk.

Can a mother transfer nicotine to her unborn child? 

The researchers collected data from seventy-nine women who were enrolled in NEST (Newborn Epigenetics Study) between 2005 and 2011. All the pregnant women analyzed had the nicotine by-product, cotinine, in their system during their first trimesters. However, the levels of cotinine varied. Some said they had a lot of exposures, while others claimed to have had none at all.

After giving birth to their child, researchers collected blood samples from the umbilical cords of these women and conducted an EWAS (epigenomic-wide association) on the samples. Results revealed that mothers who had high cotinine levels gave birth to babies who had a higher chance of showing epigenetic ‘marks’ on the genes that control brain functioning, cancer, and diabetes development.