Maternal smoking during pregnancy adversely affects the health of newborns in many ways, but taking vitamin C supplements may improve lung function and decrease incidence of wheezing in babies born to pregnant smokers, a study showed.
Smoking during pregnancy adversely affects lung development, with lifelong decreases in pulmonary (lung) function.
"Vitamin C supplementation in pregnant smokers may be an inexpensive and simple approach (with continued smoking cessation counseling) to decrease some of the effects of smoking in pregnancy on newborn pulmonary function and ultimately infant respiratory morbidities," the researchers noted.
At birth, newborn infants born to smokers show decreased pulmonary function test (PFT) results, with respiratory changes leading to increased hospitalisation for respiratory infections, and increased incidence of childhood asthma.
In a study involving primates, vitamin C blocked some of the in-utero effects of nicotine on lung development and pulmonary function in offspring.
For the study, researchers randomly assigned pregnant smokers to receive vitamin C (500 mg/d) or placebo.
The researchers found that newborns of women randomised to vitamin C, compared with those randomised to placebo, had improved measures of pulmonary function.
Offspring of women randomised to vitamin C had significantly decreased wheezing through age one year.
"Although smoking cessation is the foremost goal, most pregnant smokers continue to smoke, supporting the need for a pharmacologic intervention," the authors noted.
Other studies have demonstrated that reduced pulmonary function in offspring of smokers continues into childhood and up to age 21 years.
The study appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).