Smoking While Pregnant and ADD

Risks of smoking cigarettes while pregnant

If you're thinking about trying to conceive, you may want to take some time to explore the link between smoking while pregnant and ADD.

What is ADD?

ADD, also known as Attention Deficit Disorder, is a developmental disorder believed to be neurological in nature. The condition is thought to affect 5-12 percent of the population, with boys diagnosed three times more often than girls.

Symptoms of ADD may include:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Trouble listening to what others are saying
  • Difficulty sitting still for long periods of time
  • Excessive fidgeting
  • Excitability
  • Poor impulse control
  • Trouble following instructions
  • Inability to focus on a task long enough to complete the job
  • Not learning from punishment and rewards
  • An increased risk of developing alcoholism or substance abuse problems

Studies have shown that approximately 60 percent of children diagnosed with ADD still struggle with the disorder as adults. To learn more about ADD, visit the Attention Deficit Disorder Association Web site.

The Link between Smoking while Pregnant and ADD

Even though most people are aware that smoking increases the risk of a woman giving birth to a premature baby or a child with respiratory problems, the connection between ADD and smoking is still not considered general knowledge. However, it appears that there is a definite link between smoking while pregnant and ADD.

In June 2007, Biological Psychiatry published findings from a study that showed in utero exposure to smoking is associated with ADD. The link between smoking while pregnant and ADD is even more prominent in genetically susceptible children who already have one or more family members diagnosed with the condition.

Depending upon other relevant ADD risk factors, it appears that smoking while pregnant increases the risk of a child developing ADD by as much as three to nine times. Since 20-30 percent of all women are believed to smoke during pregnancy, this research could help explain why ADD continues to be a significant problem in children across the United States. In fact, the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center believes that almost one-third of all ADD cases can be directly attributed to maternal smoking.

Interestingly, smoking while pregnant also increases a woman's risk that she will give birth to a son suffering from Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). This condition is often present in children with ADD. Common symptoms include anger, hostility, trouble respecting authority, an inability to accept responsibility for mistakes, and difficulty developing close relationships with others.

Resources to Help You Quit

Although it's not an easy process, it is possible for you to quit smoking and improve your odds of delivering a healthy baby. Even if you are unable to quit smoking completely, simply reducing your nicotine intake will provide many benefits for your unborn child.

The following tips are useful for pregnant women who want to quit smoking:

  • Choose a "quit day" and throw away all your cigarettes, lighters, and ashtrays.
  • Enlist smoke-free family members and friends to give you encouragement and support as you're coping with the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.
  • Avoid visiting places where you will be exposed to secondhand smoke.
  • Post a list of reasons why you want to quit smoking in a prominent place as a daily reminder.
  • Think of healthy alternatives that can help you cope with nicotine cravings. For example, try taking a warm bubble bath to relax if you typically smoke when you feel stressed. Engaging in constructive activities, such as knitting a baby blanket or decorating your baby's nursery, may also be helpful.
  • Ask your doctor what patches, medications, or other smoking cessation tools are safe to use during pregnancy.

To learn more about how you can quit smoking, visit the Smoke-Free Families Web site.

Additional LoveToKnow Resources

To learn more about quitting smoking, check out the following articles at LoveToKnow Recovery:

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Smoking While Pregnant and ADD