Medical professionals have long warned expectant mothers of the danger that smoking poses to their unborn babies, yet many continue to indulge the habit during pregnancy.
Research published in the Lancet Global Health medical journal indicates that expectant European mothers in particular seem to find it difficult to abstain from smoking.
The research, which combined data from 300 previous studies in 43 countries, found that globally, less than two percent of mums-to-be smoked while pregnant. However in Europe alone, the number was higher at eight percent, with a majority of expectant smokers having smoked daily before they became pregnant.
Foetuses at risk
The study found that some 15 percent of expectant mothers in Finland smoked during pregnancy. However the situation was worst in Ireland, where nearly 40 percent of pregnant women would not kick the habit, followed by Bulgaria and Uruguay, where the corresponding number was 30 percent.
The researchers noted that smoking during pregnancy exposes an unborn child to many risks. Complications such as growth disorders, premature birth and sudden infant death syndrome are associated with pregnancies where the mothers smoked.
The infants of mothers who smoke during pregnancy are also more prone than other children to respiratory tract infections and are more likely than other kids to be diagnosed with learning disorders and hyperactivity when they reach school age,the study noted.