Maternal cigarette smoking during pregnancy and the risk of having a child with cleft lip/palate

Plast Reconstr Surg. 2000 Feb;105(2):485-91. doi: 10.1097/00006534-200002000-00001.


Maternal cigarette smoking during pregnancy as a risk factor for having a child with cleft lip/palate has been suggested by several epidemiologic studies. However, most of these studies contained small sample sizes, and a clear association between these two factors could not be established. The U.S. Natality database from 1996 and a case-control study design were used to investigate the association between maternal smoking during pregnancy and having a child with cleft lip/palate. The records of 3,891,494 live births from the 1996 U.S. Natality database were extracted to obtain cleft lip/palate cases and random controls. The National Center for Health Statistics collects maternal and newborn demographic and medical data from the birth certificates of all 50 states. New York (excluding New York City), California, Indiana, and South Dakota did not collect smoking data, and the data from these states were excluded from the analysis. A total of 2207 live births with cleft lip/palate cases were identified, and 4414 controls (1:2 ratio) were randomly selected (using the SAS program) from live births with no congenital defects. Odds ratios and 95 percent confidence intervals were determined from logistic regression models, adjusting for confounding variables, including maternal demographic and medical risk factors. A significant association was found between any amount of maternal cigarette use during pregnancy and having a child with cleft lip/palate [unadjusted odds ratio 1.55 (1.36, 1.76), p < 0.001]. Univariate analysis showed that maternal education level, age, race, and maternal medical conditions (diabetes and pregnancy-associated hypertension) were potential confounders. After adjusting for these confounders, the odds ratio remained significant [Mantel-Haenszel odds ratio 1.34 (1.16, 1.54), p < 0.001]. To determine the dose response of cigarette smoking during pregnancy, the cigarette consumption per day was divided into four groups: none, 1 to 10, 11 to 20, and 21 or more. A dose-response relationship was found when comparing each smoking category with the no smoking reference group: 1.50 (1.28, 1.76), 1.55 (1.23, 1.95), and 1.78 (1.22, 2.59), respectively. This means that increased cigarette smoking during pregnancy resulted in increased odds of having a child with cleft lip/palate. This is the largest study to date to test the association between maternal cigarette smoking during pregnancy and having a newborn with cleft lip/palate. The significant trend in the dose-response relationship strongly suggests the association of smoking tobacco and this common congenital deformity. These results emphasize the public health risks associated with smoking during pregnancy. To prevent this devastating craniofacial anomaly, educational initiatives should be considered that will alert expectant mothers to the association between smoking during pregnancy and the occurrence of cleft lip/palate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cleft Lip / epidemiology*
  • Cleft Lip / etiology
  • Cleft Palate / epidemiology*
  • Cleft Palate / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal Behavior*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Smoking*