Background: Asthma in early childhood has been associated with maternal smoking during pregnancy and parental smoking soon after birth. However, less is known about these exposures and the development of asthma symptoms in adolescence.
Methods: Data were taken from the Mater University Study of Pregnancy, a large birth cohort study of mothers and children enrolled in Brisbane, Australia, beginning in 1981. Smoking was assessed at 2 stages during pregnancy and at the 6-month and 5-year follow-up visits. Asthma was assessed from maternal reports that were provided when the child was age 14 years. We conducted multivariable multinomial logistic regression analyses to assess the effect of maternal smoking on asthma symptoms.
Results: There was a strong sex interaction such that girls whose mothers had smoked heavily (20 or more cigarettes per day) in pregnancy and at the 6-month follow up had increased odds of experiencing asthma symptoms at age 14 (odds ratio = 1.96; 95% confidence interval = 1.25-3.08). The contribution of heavy smoking during pregnancy appeared to be stronger than heavy smoking after the birth. No similar associations were seen for boys.
Conclusion: Female adolescents whose mothers smoked heavily during the fetal period and the early months of life have increased risk of asthma symptoms in adolescence. In utero exposure to heavy smoking was found to have a stronger effect than postnatal environmental tobacco exposure.