Research results have indicated that women who smoke during pregnancy and breastfeeding may be endangering the fertility of their sons.
Scientists have discovered that it causes permanent damage to the reproductive organs of the child, which results in faulty sperm.
They state that males who are no in their 30s and 40s could be suffering the effects of their mothers smoking during pregnancy. About one in eight women now smoke during pregnancy, but this level was much higher during the 1970s and 1980s when little was known about the harm smoking during pregnancy causes.
Australian researchers made use of mice to inhale the equivalent of 24 cigarettes per day prior to giving birth. They found that the male baby mice produced fewer sperm of poor quality.
Although this study was only done using mice, researchers specify that the findings are relevant to human mothers.
The co-director of the Priority Research Centre in Chemical Biology at the University of Newcastle, in New South Wales, Professor Eileen McLaughlin, said it would be unethical to deliberately expose pregnant females and their babies to cigarette toxins. She said it is already known that smoking during pregnancy causes harm to the baby in the womb as babies are often small at birth and prone to disease.
This is what prompted the use of a mouse animal model which mimicked human smoking to determine the effects of smoking during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
She said the results indicate that male pups born of ‘smoking’ mothers have less sperm, which swim poorly, are not shaped normally and fail to bind to eggs. She added that this is the first time it has been possible to conclusively prove that exposure of male babies to cigarette toxins during pregnancy causes damage in later life fertility.
The researchers have stated that regardless of whether the males smoke during their teens or adulthood, the damage would have been cause by the bad habits of their mothers.
The next investigation that is underway is whether the mother’s smoking habits affect the future fertility of their daughters.
Doctors state that every time a cigarette is smoked by a pregnant woman, it has the same effect as placing their foetus in a smoky room for a period of 15 minutes.
Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, underweight baby and prematurity.
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