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Prenatal Cigarette Smoke Leads to Breathing Difficulties

Smoke a principal risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome

THURSDAY, Sept. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Preterm infants born to smoking mothers, which increases their risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), have defects in oxygen saturation and recovery after breathing pauses during hypoxia, according to study findings published in the Sept. 1 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Jennifer Schneider, and colleagues from the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, examined cardiorespiration (breathing pauses and oxygen saturation levels under baseline and hypoxemic conditions) in 22 spontaneously breathing preterm (28-36 weeks) infants, of whom 12 were born to smoking mothers and 10 were born to non-smoking mothers.

The researchers found infants prenatally exposed to cigarette smoke had significantly reduced spontaneous recovery of breathing pauses and oxygen saturation during and post hypoxia, as well as a significant increase in heart rate during hypoxia. The two groups had similar episodes of wakefulness during hypoxia, they report.

"We provide evidence that prenatal cigarette smoke exposure, which is the principal risk factor for SIDS, leads to adverse effects on spontaneous recovery of breathing pauses and oxygen saturation during hypoxemia in preterm infants," Schneider and colleagues conclude.

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