Bipolar Disorder Risk for Children of Prenatal Smokers

Posted on April 30th, 2014
Posted in Mental Health

Bipolar Disorder Risk for Children of Prenatal SmokersPrenatal babies are utterly dependent upon the health choices made by their mothers. A new study shows that moms who use tobacco while pregnant may put their child at increased risk for bipolar disorder (BPD) as adults.

The researchers used data collected during the Child Health and Development Study (CHDS) conducted from 1959 to 1966. The team looked at 79 pregnant women and their children who took part in that study and compared them to 654 control women and their adult children. The group found a two times greater risk for bipolar disorder in children when mom was a tobacco smoker while pregnant.

A mother’s behavior can mean healthier physical and mental health outcomes for their children. Many of the conditions in children stemming from pregnant tobacco use will follow them into adulthood and the effects are not minor. Numerous studies have established many other risks associated with smoking during pregnancy, including low birth weight, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder and substance abuse. This was the first study to demonstrate a connection between pregnant mom smokers and a child’s risk of BPD.

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder characterized by extreme shifts in emotional attitude. People with BPD experience positive feelings of energy and euphoria known as mania, and at other times they can spend days, weeks or months feeling unmotivated, dark and depressed. These extreme mood cycles make it hard for affected teens and adults to enjoy normal interpersonal relationships and perform predictably at work, with many affected by BPD finding it hard to stay in any job long-term. The struggle to remain in positive relationships and to stay gainfully employed can deepen the dark episodes of BPD.

Increased public awareness is one way to address the problem of prenatal smoking and associated bipolar disorder. Moms need to know that their decision to smoke while carrying a child will impact their child’s health and wellness. The effects of prenatal smoking can continue to surface in children as they become adults. Conversely, refraining from tobacco for nine months can help ensure healthier offspring.

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