Objective: To explore the associations between prenatal exposure to tobacco and neurocognitive development, in the absence of prematurity or low birth weight.
Study design: We followed mother-child pairs within Healthy Start through 6 years of age. Children were born at ≥37 weeks of gestation with a birth weight of ≥2500 g. Parents completed the Third Edition Ages and Stages Questionnaire (n = 246) and children completed a subset of the National Institutes of Health Toolbox Cognition Battery (n = 200). The Ages and Stages Questionnaire domains were dichotomized as fail/monitor and pass. Maternal urinary cotinine was measured at approximately 27 weeks of gestation. Separate logistic regression models estimated associations between prenatal exposure to tobacco (cotinine below vs above the limit of detection) and the Ages and Stages Questionnaire domains. Separate linear regression models estimated associations between prenatal exposure to tobacco and fully corrected T-scores for inhibitory control, cognitive flexibility, and receptive language, as assessed by the National Institutes of Health Toolbox. A priori covariates included sex, maternal age, maternal education, daily caloric intake during pregnancy, race/ethnicity, household income, maternal psychiatric disorders, and, in secondary models, postnatal exposure to tobacco.
Results: Compared with unexposed offspring, exposed offspring were more likely to receive a fail/monitor score for fine motor skills (OR, 3.9; 95% CI, 1.5-10.3) and decreased inhibitory control (B: -3.0; 95% CI, -6.1 to -0.7). After adjusting for postnatal exposure, only the association with fine motor skills persisted.
Conclusions: Prenatal and postnatal exposures to tobacco may influence neurocognitive development, in the absence of preterm delivery or low birth weight. Increased developmental screening may be warranted for exposed children.
Keywords: cotinine; fetal programming; fine motor development; inhibitory control; maternal smoking; neurodevelopment; pregnancy; secondhand smoke.
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