Recent 4-D scans reveal that unborn babies frown and cover their faces when in the wombs of smoking mothers, according to NY Daily News.
The images revealed on Monday only contribute to mounting evidence that smoking is detrimental both for the mother and the unborn child, said researchers at Lancaster and Durham universities in England.
“Technology means we can now see what was previously hidden, revealing how smoking affects the development of the fetus in ways we did not realize,” said Brian Francis, a Lancaster University professor.
Based on research, fetuses who develop inside smoking mothers typically have more facial and mouth movements, a result of a slower developed central nervous system.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study disclosing that smoking while pregnant can result in tissue damage to the unborn baby, especially in the lungs and brain. It can also result in high percentages of miscarriages and premature births. Additionally, researchers found that toddlers who are exposed to tobacco typically have a delay in speech processing abilities.
In a recent study, 20 fetuses were closely watched through 4-D ultrasound scans between 24 and 36 weeks of pregnancy.
Of those fetuses, four of them belonged to mothers who smoked around 14 cigarettes a day; the remaining 16 fetuses were carried by non-smoking mothers.
All babies were born without health issues, according to the journal publishing Acta Paediatrica. However, researchers are still convinced that more work needs to be done to fully understand the negative effects of smoking during pregnancy.
“A larger study is needed to confirm these results and to investigate specific effects, including the interaction of maternal stress and smoking,” said Dr. Nadja Reissland, a lead researcher from Durham University.