Nicotine-Replacement Products Also Implicated
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Pregnant women are often steered towards nicotine-replacement patches or gum during pregnancy in efforts to help them stop smoking. However, a new study says that not only does smoking increase the risk of a baby developing ADHD in the future, but nicotine-replacement products may as well.
Smoking and ADHD
Researchers examined the medical records of around 85,000 Danish women who signed up to participate in the study from 1996 to 2002. They found that among all of the resulting children of these pregnancies, around 2,000 of the children had a diagnosis of ADHD.
The prevalence of ADHD was found to be the highest in households where both parents smoked. In homes where the father didn't smoke, ADHD rates were highest when Mom was on nicotine-replacement therapy, followed closely by moms who smoked themselves.
Limitations of the study
As with many research studies, the authors note that while a link was found, it should not be regarded as absolute proof that smoking causes ADHD. We must keep in mind that ADHD often has a genetic component, and smoking rates are higher in ADHD families — so which came first, the smoking or the ADHD?
Also, the number of women who used nicotine-replacement products was very low (only 29 out of more than 85,000 women). While the incidence of ADHD was higher in their children, the sample size is too small to draw any serious conclusions from it. Study authors noted that many women didn't participate in a seven-year follow-up that would have helped illustrate how the children are doing.
So what can we take away from this study? Smoking isn't a good idea for a mother or her fetus, and nicotine-replacement therapy may not be a suitable alternative for moms who are trying to quit smoking — but that, again, is subject to interpretation, as using a patch or gum has to be better than inhaling smoke. But that's a question better addressed by an expectant mother's medical team.