Women's Healthcare Topics

Developmental Dyslexia and Prenatal Smoking

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Smoking during Pregnancy linked to Dyslexia

Genes and the environment play a combined role in many conditions. Recent research has found a new connection between genes and the environment and Developmental Dyslexia (DD). Dyslexia is a specific reading disability, and kids with normal intelligence and vision can suffer with it for many years before it is diagnosed. It can cause delays or learning problems in children, and a combination of inherited genes and the environment cause it to happen in some kids and not in others.

A recent study in Italy looked at hundreds of children from families with the genes that can contribute to Developmental Dyslexia. Siblings and parents were all checked for the genes that sometimes lead to dyslexia. Among kids with the right genes, three environmental factors seemed to be most closely related with the children actually developing the condition.

Low birth weight, low socioeconomic status, and prenatal smoking were the three environmental factors most closely linked to a child actually developing DD.

This study’s results correlate closely with another recent research study that found a similar connection. In the long-term trial for over 5000 kids, the researchers discovered that prenatal nicotine exposure is a sizable risk factor for problems with reading. School aged children who had been exposed to nicotine during pregnancy tested significantly lower in certain reading skills than did kids who did not have exposure to nicotine during that time of development. Despite the strong link, this study also showed the power of other environmental factors (like socioeconomic status) to modify that effect.

What’s the Bottom Line?

Dyslexia and Prenatal Smoking.

When it comes to smoking during pregnancy, the best advice is this: don’t do it. The warning is nothing new, but it can be very hard to quit—even for the health and wellbeing of your child. Here are a few extra tips to help you quit smoking during pregnancy:

  • Try chewing sugarless gum when you crave a cigarette.

  • Avoid being around your “triggers,” like other smokers or the place you normally smoke.

  • Go cold turkey or cut back gradually—whichever works best for you.

  • Take advantage of a support system, like an encouraging friend or family member.

  • Talk to your doctor about nicotine replacement therapy or electronic cigarettes to help you break the habit.

  • Take up a new hobby—when you’re occupied and happy, it’s easier to ignore a craving!

  • Join a support group, forum, or club to help you vent and get motivated.

No matter how you manage, quitting smoking is very important to your baby’s health (and your own). Making it work can make an important difference in many areas of your own life and in the future of your child’s learning success. Don’t delay!


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