Pregnant women are advised not to smoke, as this may harm the unborn baby. However, not all pregnant smokers are able to quit their habit. A new American study shows that vitamin C supplementation can reduce the risk to the baby’s lungs and improve the baby’s breathing.
An earlier study has demonstrated that pregnant women who take a vitamin C supplement every day can improve the lung function of their offspring. The study, which lasted for a year, also showed that babies of vitamin C-supplemented mothers were less likely to gasp for air.
The new American study included 252 smoking pregnant women. The researchers measured the expiratory flow in the babies when they were three and 12 months of age.
The women who smoked were given a 500 mg/day supplement of vitamin C or matching placebo in addition to the vitamin supplements that are officially recommended for pregnant women.
Although the women were encouraged to quit smoking, most of the women in both groups continued smoking seven cigarettes daily on average.
The scientists measured the babies’ forced expiratory flow (FEF), as this method provides accurate information about their current lung function. The method also indicates the risk of future lung diseases.
Because infants are unable to receive instructions, the researchers were forced to use advanced techniques to obtain their results. As mentioned, they measured the babies’ forced expiratory flow (FEF), which is defined as the percentage of air left in the lungs during three expiratory intervals or phases: FEF-75%, FEF 25-75% and FEF-50%.
After three months, babies of the mothers who had taken 500 mg of vitamin C during their pregnancy had a statistically significant better expiratory capacity in the two first intervals compared with babies of mother who got placebo. After 12 months, there was still a statistically significant difference in lung function in all three intervals.
The study did not find any difference between the babies in the two groups in terms of pregnancy duration, birth complications, premature delivery, or birth weight.
Why does vitamin C affect the babies’ airways?
The scientists are not able to say with certainty, why vitamin C has a protective effect on the babies’ airways. They are therefore planning to look into this in future studies. According to professor of neuroscience, Eliot Spindel, who headed the study, it is possible that vitamin C blocks the increased collagen deposition around the airways. Studies of young animals, whose mothers have been exposed to smoke or nicotine during pregnancy, show increased stiffness of the lungs and airways in the offspring. It is also possible that vitamin C somehow contributes to prevent the damage caused by prolonged exposure to tobacco.
It is also worth mentioning that vitamin C works like a powerful antioxidant that can neutralize (to a certain degree) the cascades of free radicals, which tobacco sends through the lungs of the expecting mother and to her cardiovascular system and the fetus.
In the above-mentioned study, the scientists will follow the children, until they are six years of age, to see if vitamin C has a long-term effect that improves the children’s respiratory function.
They are particularly interested in finding out if vitamin C supplements given to pregnant women who smoke may help lower the long-term risk of asthma in their offspring. This is difficult to determine during the first years of their life.
Should I Quit smoking or start taking vitamin C supplements?
There are many advantages with vitamin C supplements, if you are pregnant and smoke, the scientists say. They do stress, however, that it is always best to stop smoking when you are expecting a baby. For the around 50 percent of pregnant smokers, who cannot stop, even if they really want to and try the best they can, taking 500 mg of vitamin C daily may be a simple and safe way to help their babies breathe better.
American Thoracic Society. Pregnant smokers may reduce harm to baby´s lungs by taking vitamin C. ScienceDaily May 21, 2018
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