Smoking During Pregnancy and Bipolar Disorder


A recent study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry makes the alarming statement that there is a proven association between smoking whilst pregnant and the development of bipolar disorder (BD) by the children of smokers as they progress into adulthood.

The research was carried out using data collected during the Child Health and Development Study from 1959 to 1966. Of the 654 comparison subjects who took part in the study, 79 cases clearly showed that maternal smoking whilst pregnant doubled the risk of the women’s offspring developing bipolar disorder when they grew up. The project was a collaborative exercise undertaken by the New York State Psychiatric Institute, the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in California and the Department of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.

The chemicals and toxins produced by smoking tobacco during pregnancy are well known to be dangerous to the unborn child. Babies born to smokers often have a low birth weight and behavioural difficulties, including ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). However, until now there has been no scientific research to suggest an association between smoking during pregnancy and bipolar disorder. Bipolar is a serious psychiatric disorder which causes mood swings characterised by bouts of mania and severe depression and does not usually manifest itself in sufferers until early adulthood or the late teenage years.

The study’s findings serve to emphasise the dangers of smoking during pregnancy and the wholly preventable dangers presented to the unborn child, many of which do not become apparent until that child is older. Other psychiatric disorders associated with tobacco exposure whilst in the womb include; ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), CD (Conduct Disorder), ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder) and various substance abuse problems. Whilst not officially filed under exactly the same label as these disorders, bipolar does share similar clinical characteristics; inattention, loss of self-control, irritability and the proclivity to alcohol/drug abuse.

As if all that wasn’t bad enough, another study by the same group of experts found that pregnant mothers who smoke and also suffer from flu during their pregnancy have four times the risk of producing a child who would later go on to develop bipolar disorder.

So, if you’re pregnant and you smoke and you care about the health of your unborn child; quit. There’s no excuse.




*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.

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