The effects of smoking on steroid metabolism and fetal programming

J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2014 Jan;139:138-43. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2013.05.003. Epub 2013 May 14.


Tobacco addiction is a serious psychosocial and health problem. A pregnant woman who smokes not only influences the maternal organism, but also passes health risks on to the unborn child. A fetus exposed to maternal smoking is not only directly influenced, but is also endangered by a wide range of diseases up to his or her adult years. The components of tobacco smoke play a significant role in the development of a number of diseases for a large proportion of the smoking population, as well as among those pregnant. This article summarizes findings regarding the impacts on the production of steroid hormones - first describing the smoking-related changes in steroidogenesis in women, and then focusing on the influence of maternal smoking on the fetus's developing steroidogenesis. We assume that if during prenatal development the fetus has already been exposed to the effect of endocrine disruptors at the time fetal steroidogenesis begins fetal programming, this exposure can have serious pathophysiological effects both in the pregnancy as well as later in life. An example of such effects might be a delay in the creation of kidney adrenal androgens, which could also be evident on the level of steroid neuroactive metabolites that may influence the individual's psychological state and lead to later addictions.

Keywords: Pregnancy; Smoking; Steroidogenesis; Women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Fertility
  • Fetal Development*
  • Hormones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Reproduction
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Steroids / metabolism*


  • Hormones
  • Steroids