NEW Chinese research has found that fathers-to-be who smoke may be increasing their child's risk of congenital heart defects.
Carried out by researchers at Xiangya School of Public Health, Central South University, the new meta-analysis looked at 125 studies carried out before June 2018, which included a total of 137,574 babies with congenital heart defects and 8.8 million prospective parents.
The researchers used the data to investigate the effect of maternal smoking, paternal smoking and passive smoking on the risk of congenital heart defects, which are the leading cause of stillbirth and affect eight in 1,000 babies born worldwide.
The findings, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, showed that all types of smoking increased the risk of congenital heart defects. Fathers-to-be to who smoked appeared to increase the risk by 74 per cent, and mothers-to-be who smoked by 25 per cent, compared to parents who did not smoke.
Children born to mothers who were exposed to passive smoking had a 124 per cent higher risk of congenital heart defects.
Exposure to secondhand smoke also appeared to increase the risk during all stages of pregnancy, even before women became pregnant.
However, although maternal smoking during pregnancy also increased the risk of having a child with a congenital heart defect, smoking before pregnancy did not appear to affect risk.
“Smoking is teratogenic, meaning it can cause developmental malformations. The association between prospective parents smoking and the risk of congenital heart defects has attracted more and more attention with the increasing number of smokers of childbearing age,” said study author Dr Jiabi Qin.
The researchers note that this was the first meta-analysis to investigate how paternal smoking and maternal passive smoking could affect a child's risk of congenital heart defects, with previous studies focusing only on a mother's smoking habits.
However, Dr Qin points out, “In fact, smoking in fathers-to-be and exposure to passive smoking in pregnant women are more common than smoking in pregnant women.”
“Fathers-to-be should quit smoking,” he added. “Fathers are a large source of secondhand smoke for pregnant women, which appears to be even more harmful to unborn children than women smoking themselves.”
He also advises that, “Women should stop smoking before trying to become pregnant to ensure they are smoke-free when they conceive. Staying away from people who are smoking is also important. Employers can help by ensuring that workplaces are smokefree.”