How Does Smoking Cause Birth Defects?

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Smoking can cause significant birth defects, including the development of smaller fetuses, growth delays and an increase in risk of congenital malformations. Learn about the relationship between cigarette smoking and cleft palettes with help from a pulmonary disease research expert in this free video on the effects of smoking.

Part of the Video Series: Effects of Smoking
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Video Transcript

Hello. I'm Dr. David Burns. I'm a professor emeritus at the University of California San Diego, School of Medicine. Cigarette smoking causes substantial problems during pregnancy. The fetus tends to be smaller and have a developmental delay and developmental lag in terms of its growth. It is small in terms of weight, and it is small in terms of other measures of size, such as the circumference of the head or the distance between the head and the bottom of the baby. Those developmental delays have raised questions about whether cigarette smoking increases the risk of congenital malformations and there has been a substantial number of investigations, some of which have found positive relationships, others that have found negative relationships. The one that has most consistently been found has been a relationship between cigarette smoking and cleft palette. That's a problem with the development of the baby where the sides of the mouth and the sides of the upper jaw tend not to come together and form a complete upper lip and a complete upper jaw. That's something that needs to be repaired shortly after birth or during the early life of the child and can be quite disfiguring.

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