A study out of Orebro University in Sweden has linked smoking to increased risk of fetal coordination and motor skill problems. Researchers narrowed down the results noting boys tend to be more affected than girls.

More than 13,000 children took part in the National Child Development Study. All children were born within a seven day period in March of 1958. Participation in on-going and the group is followed throughout life. Data collected at birth included whether or not the mother smoked during pregnancy.

At age 11, children underwent motor skill and coordination testing. Skills tested included time-based matching with both left and right hand and copying a figure. Children of mothers who smoked at least ½ pack of cigarettes a day did not perform as well as children of non-smoking mothers.

This study involved physical motor skills as opposed to cognitive. Basic motor skills can be measured on a more even level across socioeconomic status and ethnic background. Children were given tests that involved basic brain development, not education or ability to learn.

Doctors look forward to further testing to reveal whether or not malnutrition caused by maternal smoking, or some other external factor, was to cause for the pronounced difference in motor skill and cognitive development.

Researchers also noted infants born to mothers who smoke may be at increased risk for certain diseases and disorders. Scott Montgomery, Professor at Orebro, stated, “These findings also help us to understand why neurological function in childhood is linked with adverse health outcomes in later life such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, as these are also associated with maternal smoking during pregnancy.”

Source: M Larsson, S M Montgomery. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. 22 September 2010.