Dr. Gary Shaw of the March of Dimes and colleagues from institutes in Norway, Holland and Texas, studied serum samples collected between 2003 and 2005 from pregnant women enrolled in the California Expanded AFP -- alpha fetoprotein -- program. The researchers measured the levels of cotinine -- a metabolite of nicotine -- to determine whether the mothers smoked during pregnancy. They found that women who smoked during pregnancy were nearly 2.5 times more likely to have babies with oral clefts.
"Babies with oral clefts require significant medical care -- often four surgeries by age 2 -- and may have speech, hearing, and feeding problems," Shaw said in a statement.
In a related study, Dr. Laura Stroud and colleagues from Brown University studied the effects of cigarette smoke exposure on infant behavior. The researchers studied 56 otherwise healthy infants and used questionnaires and cotinine measurements to determine cigarette smoke exposure. They found that the 28 babies who had been exposed to cigarette smoke were more irritable and difficult to sooth than the 28 babies who were not exposed.
The findings are scheduled to be published in The Journal of Pediatrics.