New Research on ADHD and Smoking While Pregnant

CADDAC National Director

While it has long been known that smoking during pregnancy is never a good thing, a new study suggests that women who smoke while pregnant have a greater chance of having a child with ADHD. The study also hints, but does not prove, that being on a nicotine patch may also increase the risk. It must be noted however, that there may also be other factors at play. ADHD runs in families due to the strong genetic component, and those families are more likely to smoke than those without ADHD. So, while we know that there is a link between smoking during pregnancy and ADHD we cannot confirm that there is a direct cause. Genetics or being in a smoking environment may also play a role. Do the children of mothers who smoke have a greater chance of having ADHD because their mothers have ADHD and therefore have a greater chance of smoking?

The records of 85,000 children whose mothers signed up between 1996 and 2002 in Denmark were reviewed with the following results:
ADHD rates for children of:

• Non smokers: 1.8%
• Mothers who quit and Father was a non-smoker: 2%
• Parents who both smoked: 4.2%
• Mothers who smoked: 3.4%
• Mom’s who were on nicotine-replacement therapy: 3.8%
• Father’s who smoked and mothers on nicotine-replacement therapy: 2.9%

Since only 29 women in the study were on nicotine-replacement therapy, these small numbers may make findings on the therapy less accurate.

The good news is that smoking prior to pregnancy does not seem to increase the risk, however stopping smoking well before conception will also decrease the risk of requiring nicotine-replacement therapy during any part of the pregnancy. While we are not yet able to show direct causality to ADHD, not smoking during pregnancy is always recommended; this is just one more reason to stop.

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