Mothers who smoke more than six cigarettes a day during
pregnancy are more likely to have babies who develop diagnosable
conduct disorders during childhood, a study for the Department for
Education and Skills has reported.
Despite the practical difficulties facing professionals in
getting pregnant mothers to stop smoking when they may already be
under severe stress, the justification for pressing on has never
been stronger, says the research.
Stress and anxiety during pregnancy are themselves linked to
subsequent behaviour problems in children. In women who were most
anxious in late pregnancy and who had boy babies, the sons’
risk of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) later on
was double that in the overall population.
The study reports that regular home visits by trained home visitor
nurses during pregnancy and continuing during the child’s
first two years had a positive impact on vulnerable families. Baby
massage by mothers, and using a front-carrying sling, were also
found to improve the relationship between mother and baby.
Support from the Start. DfES, 2004. www.dfes.gov.uk/research