A new study, presented at the 58th Annual European Society for Pediatric Endocrinology Meeting, shows that baby girls born to women who smoked during pregnancy exhibit signs of increased testosterone exposure, which might affect their future reproductive function.
Cigarette smoking during pregnancy has already be linked to multiple adverse outcomes, including premature birth. The toxins found in cigarettes are also suspected having endocrine-disrupting properties that lead to increased testosterone levels.
The study, by researchers at Cigli State Training Hospital in Turkey, looked at the anogenital distance (AGD) of more than 100 newborn babies, including 56 females and 64 males. AGD is the distance from the midpoint of the anus to the genitalia and is regulated by testosterone levels during fetal development. “AGD is an important biomarker of fetal androgen exposure and intrauterine masculinization,” said Dr. Deniz Ozalp Kizilay, lead researcher of the study.
Female babies born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy had a significantly larger AGD length. AGD length also correlated with the amount the mother smoked.
“This significant increase in AGD in girls exposed to maternal smoking may be an indicator of excessive testosterone exposure that poses a risk for short and long-term health problems, including metabolism and fertility. Further investigation is needed to explain the relationship between maternal smoking, increased AGD and future health issues in girls,” said Dr. Kizilay.
The researchers plan to continue to monitor the same group of baby girls in this study in order to assess how this might affect their future health and fertility.
Dr. Kizilay also commented, “To our knowledge this is the first time that the unfavorable effects of prenatal smoke exposure on AGD, as a marker of testosterone exposure, has been demonstrated in female newborns. These findings are a valuable contribution to our better understanding of the intergenerational effects of maternal smoking.”