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New fears over smoking in pregnancy

The risk of developing mental illness later in life may be increased by women smoking during pregnancy, a study suggests.

The physical effects on babies of smoking during pregnancy have long been known, but researchers in Finland are among the first to discover a higher risk of psychiatric problems.

Not only does smoking put babies at risk of developing asthma and respiratory disease, but it can also cause depression and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the team at Turku University Hospital discovered.

The research was based on analysis of the birth records of over 175,000 children born in the late 1980s in Finland and their later prescriptions for psychotropic medication.

Foetuses exposed to parents' smoking were 32% more likely to take a psychiatric drug later in childhood or young adulthood than those which weren't.

Women who smoked more than a packet of cigarettes a day while pregnant raised the risk further, with their offspring 44% more likely to use psychiatric drugs.

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Turku University Hospital