Background: There is strong evidence of an association between maternal smoking during pregnancy and restriction of intrauterine growth, but the effects of this exposure on postnatal linear growth are not well defined. Furthermore, few studies have investigated the role of tobacco smoke exposure also after pregnancy on linear growth until adolescence. In this study we investigated the effect of maternal smoking exposure during pregnancy and preschool age on linear growth from birth to adolescence.
Methods: We evaluated a cohort of children born between 1994 and 1999 in Cuiabá, Brazil, who attended primary health clinics for vaccination between the years 1999 and 2000 (at preschool age) and followed-up after approximately ten years. Individuals were located in public and private schools throughout the country using the national school census. Height/length was measured, and length at birth was collected at maternity departments. Stature in childhood and adolescence was assessed using the height-for-age index sex-specific expressed as z-score from curves published by the World Health Organization. Linear mixed effects models were used to estimate the association between exposure to maternal smoking, during pregnancy and preschool age, and height of children assessed at birth, preschool and school age, adjusted for age of the children.
Results: We evaluated 2405 children in 1999-2000, length at birth was obtained from 2394 (99.5%), and 1716 at follow-up (71.4% of baseline), 50.7% of the adolescents were male. The z-score of height-for-age was lower among adolescents exposed to maternal smoking both during pregnancy and childhood (p < 0.01). Adjusting for age, sex, maternal height, maternal schooling, socioeconomic position at preschool age, and breastfeeding, children exposed to maternal smoking both during pregnancy and preschool age showed persistent lower height-for-age since birth to adolescence (coefficient: -0.32, p < 0.001) compared to non-exposed. Paternal smoking at preschool age was not associated with growth after adjustment for confounders.
Conclusion: Exposure to maternal smoking not only during pregnancy, but also at early childhood, showed long-term negative effect on height of children until adolescence.