To explore the effects of maternal smoking during pregnancy on offspring growth using three approaches: (1) multiple adjustments for socioeconomic and parental factors, (2) maternal–paternal comparisons as a test of putative intrauterine effects and (3) comparisons between two birth cohort studies.
Population-based birth cohort studies were carried out in Pelotas, Brazil, in 1993 and 2004. Cohort members were followed up at 3, 12, 24 and 48 months. Multiple linear regression analysis was used to examine the relationships between maternal and paternal prenatal smoking and offspring anthropometric indices. In the 2004 cohort, the association of smoking with trunk length, leg length and leg-to-sitting-height ratio at 48 months was also explored.
Maternal smoking during pregnancy was associated with reduced z scores of length/height-for-age at each follow-up in both cohorts and reduced leg length at 48 months in the 2004 cohort. Children older than 3 months born to smoking women showed a higher body mass index-for-age z score than children of non-smoking women.
The results of this study strongly support the hypothesis that maternal smoking during pregnancy impairs linear growth and promotes overweight in childhood.