Effects of maternal smoking during pregnancy and a family history of asthma on respiratory function in newborn infants

Lancet. 1996 Oct 19;348(9034):1060-4. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(96)04446-7.


Introduction: Infants of mothers who smoke have reduced respiratory function and are more likely to develop wheezing. Little evidence is available on the effect of in-utero cigarette-smoke exposure as opposed to postnatal exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. We used a previously validated non-invasive method to measure the time to peak tidal expiratory flow (tPTEF) as a proportion of expiratory time (tE) in newborn infants soon after birth to examine the effects of a family history of asthma and in-utero cigarette-smoke exposure on the infants' respiratory function.

Methods: We collected respiratory-function data from 500 healthy infants of mothers taking part in the Western Australia Pregnancy Cohort Study. During behaviourally defined quiet sleep, measurements were obtained a median of 58 h (range 26-159) after the infants were born. We used uncalibrated inductance plethysmography. The uncalibrated volume signal was differentiated to flow and used to calculate respiratory rate, total inspiratory time, tE, and tPTEF. Mothers answered questionnaires on demographic, medical, and pregnancy characteristics, including smoking history. Serum cotinine measurements were available to validate self-reported smoking history in a subset of mothers (238).

Results: Data suitable for analysis were obtained from 461 infants. In multivariate regression analysis, lower values of tPTEF/tE were independently associated with respiratory rate (beta coefficient per 10 breaths/min 0.018 [SE 0.005], p < 0.01), age (beta coefficient per 10 h -0.008 [0.003], p < 0.01), maternal smoking during pregnancy (> 10 cigarettes daily; beta coefficient -0.049 [0.022], p < 0.05), maternal hypertension during pregnancy (-0.037 [0.015], p < 0.02), and a family history of asthma (-0.028[0.014], p < 0.05).

Conclusions: In-utero smoke exposure, a family history of asthma, and maternal hypertension during pregnancy are associated with reduced respiratory function after birth. We speculate that these factors adversely affect lung development in utero.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / genetics
  • Cotinine / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension
  • Infant, Newborn / physiology*
  • Male
  • Plethysmography, Impedance
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Cardiovascular
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Respiration*
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Smoking*


  • Cotinine