Aims: Smoking in pregnancy is common. Its effects on lipoprotein levels and arterial structure in childhood are not well characterized. We aimed to determine the effects of maternal smoking in pregnancy on lipoprotein levels and arterial wall thickness in healthy pre-pubertal children.
Methods and results: A community-based longitudinal study with prospective ascertainment of exposure to smoking in pregnancy and environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) since birth and then lipoprotein and arterial measurements at age 8 years. In 616 newborn infants (gestation >36 weeks and birth weight >2.5 kg) data were collected prospectively by questionnaire on smoking in pregnancy and ETS exposure in childhood. At age 8-years, 405 of the children had measurements of lipoproteins, blood pressure (BP) and carotid intima-media thickness. Children born to mothers who smoked in pregnancy had lower HDL cholesterol [1.32 vs. 1.50 mmol/L, 95% confidence interval (CI) for difference -0.28 to -0.08, P = 0.0005], higher triglycerides (1.36 vs. 1.20 mmol/L, 95% CI for ratio 1.01-1.30, P = 0.04) and higher systolic BP (102.1 vs. 99.9 mmHg, 95% CI for difference 0.6-3.8, P = 0.006). After adjustment for maternal passive smoking, post-natal ETS exposure, gender, breast feeding duration, physical inactivity, and adiposity, smoking in pregnancy remained significantly associated with lower HDL cholesterol (difference = -0.22 mmol/L, 95% CI -0.36 to -0.08, P = 0.003) but not with higher systolic BP. Neither smoking in pregnancy nor post-natal ETS exposure was associated with alterations of carotid artery wall thickness.
Conclusion: Smoking in pregnancy is independently associated with significantly lower HDL cholesterol in healthy 8-year-old children.