Study links smoking during pregnancy to birth defects

SMOKING in pregnancy increases the risk of many congenital defects, including cleft palate and club foot, according to the first systematic review of the literature, spanning 50 years.

The review, by the US March of Dimes Foundation, examined the risk of anomalies based on more than 170,000 cases of malformation and 11.7 million controls. 

Smoking in pregnancy was associated with increased risk of cleft palate (28%), club foot (28%), craniostenosis (33%), hernia (40%) and gastroschisis (50%), with more modest increases in risk for heart and musculoskeletal defects.

Hum Reprod Update 2011; online 11 July