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Use of nicotine during pregnancy increases risk of sudden infant death

Use of nicotine during pregnancy increases risk of sudden infant death

Women should avoid the use of any form of nicotine during pregnancy as it could lead to increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) often known as “cot death”, according to a new research published in the Journal of Physiology.

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexpected death of an infant under 1 year that generally occurs while sleeping. SIDS is caused due to the failure of autoresuscitation which is the ability to recover normal heart rate and breathing following gasping caused by lack of oxygen in the brain and smoking aggravates the likelihood of the occurrence of  SIDS.

Though the use of nicotine has drastically declined in the recent past still around 10% of pregnant women are its users.

Various nicotine replacement therapies have emerged such as nicotine patches or e-cigarettes, which is prescribed to women to help them quit smoking during their pregnancy. However, the findings reveal that these replacements therapies may not protect infants from SIDS.

Stella Lee and associates conducted a study and, tested whether the use of nicotine during pregnancy and nursing is more likely to elicit autoresuscitation defects in developing animals. During the study, rats were exposed to nicotine through maternal blood or milk. After that their response was analyzed to repeated periods of severe low oxygen.

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According to the investigators, exposure of the mother to nicotine during pregnancy can affect the infant’s central nervous system and cardiorespiratory responses to stressful environments, such as asphyxia, especially in babies who have both serotonin and serotonin receptors deficiency in the brain.

This may lead to damage a key biological mechanism called autoresuscitation that protects the infant from a severe lack of oxygen. Such failure of autoresuscitation increases the chances of SIDS because the infant is unable to recover from environmental stresses that cause lack of oxygen, such as getting tangled in bedding, a minor illness or a breathing obstruction.

“Sudden infant death syndrome is such a distressing tragedy for families. We still don’t fully understand the causes, but this research is important because it helps mothers reduce the risk,” said Stella Lee

The authors suggest that the use of nicotine such as nicotine patches or electronic cigarettes are not a safe alternative to cigarettes during pregnancy as nicotine exposure through any route may be harmful to the infant’s cardiorespiratory function and increases the risk of SIDS.

For more reference log on to 10.1113/JP275885

Source: With inputs from the Journal of Physiology

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